BY BILLY SUTER
AFTER having enjoyed concerts in the Durban City Hall, Durban’s acclaimed and versatile KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra returns to the Playhouse complex for its six-concert Summer Symphony Season, featuring concerts every Thursday in the Playhouse Opera, starting this week (February 9).
Soloists selected for this season represent some of the most exciting talent of the new generation of global music-makers, explains publicist Illa Thompson. She adds that these soloists marry rock-star appeal and accessibility with heavyweight music credentials and applauded virtuosity. All have recently won major international music competitions.
The three featured conductors showcase diverse and rich backgrounds: Kwame Ryan is a Canadian of Trinidadian descent. Daniel Boico is an Israeli-American and associate guest conductor of the KZN Philharmonic. And maestro Yasuo Shinozaki is Japanese.
“The KZN Philharmonic is committed to enriching the cultural life of South Africa’s diverse audiences by presenting world-class concerts which reflect the diverse heritage of our country,” says Bongani Tembe, chief executive and artistic director of the KZN Philharmonic.
The first concert of the season, on February 9, will features Joanna MacGregor on piano, performing Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No 2 under the baton of Ryan.
MacGregor is one of the world’s most innovative musicians, appearing as a concert pianist, curator and collaborator. The head of piano at the Royal Academy of Music and Professor of the University of London, she is also the artistic director of Dartington International Summer School and Festival. MacGregor was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the Queen’s Jubilee Honours in 2012.
Conductor Ryan will be making his debut with the KZN Philharmonic and will conduct the first two concerts. He has earned distinction over a broad spectrum of symphonic and operatic repertoires on both sides of the Atlantic and in the Far East.
On the programme for February 9 is Beethoven’s Overture to the Creatures of Prometheus; Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No 2 and Beethoven’s Symphony No 6 in F major, Pastoral.
The second concert (February 16) sees Ryan return to the podium. The soloist is Francesca Dego on violin, making her debut with the KZN Philharmonic.
Dego is quickly developing into one of the most sought-after young violinists on the international scene. Signed since 2012 by Deutsche Grammophon, she regularly appears with the world’s leading orchestras and is the winner of numerous national and international competitions, says the press release.
The February 16 programme opens with Mikhail Glinka’s Overture to Ruslan and Ludmilla, followed by Italian composer Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari’s violin concerto. It closes with Dvorak’s Symphony No 8 in G major.
The KZN Philharmonic’s associate guest conductor, Daniel Boico, features in the next two concerts. On February 23, he conducts multi-award-winning young pianist Daniel Ciobanu from Rumania – winner of the 2015 Unisa international piano competition and the 2014 Scottish international piano competition in Glasgow.
Ciobanu has been described as “impetuous” – with a love of the classical repertoire.
The all-Russian programme features at its centrepiece Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No 3. Either side of it are Borodin’s Overture to Prince Igor and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony Pathetique: No 6 in B minor – the composer’s final completed magnum opus.
The March 2 concert features Mariam Batsashvili on piano as the soloist, performing Franz Liszt’s virtuosic Piano Concerto No 1.
Aged only 23 years, Mariam Batsashvili already ranks among the most promising young pianists of her generation. She won the 10th international Franz Liszt competition, and was nominated by the European Concert Hall organisation as the Rising Star for the 2016 / 17 season.
Also on the March 2 programme will be Mendelssohn’s The Hebrides Overture Fingal’s Cave, Rajna’s Adonai Ma-Adam Chorus No 1 and Brahms’s Symphony No.1 in C minor.
For the final two concerts of the season, the baton will be in the hands of conductor Shinozaki. He opens the March 9 concert with Edvard Grieg’s Holberg Suite. The featured piece for the evening is the Trombone Concerto for Orchestra by Danish composer Launy Grondahl. The soloist is principal trombone player with the KZN Philharomic, Italian trombonist Andrea Balocco – a master’s graduate from the Geneva University of Music.
The evening climaxes with Beethoven’s Symphony No 7 in A major – one of the composer’s most revered masterworks. It is a paean to heroic patriotism.
The final concert for the season, on March 16, opens with Hector Berlioz’s overture to Beatrice et Benedict; followed by a technically exacting violin concerto in A minor by Aleksandr Glazunov, a Russian composer, music teacher and conductor of the late Russian romantic period, performed by St Petersburg-born Andrey Baranov – a prize-winner of more than 20 major international competitions.
The season’s closing work is Tchaikovsky’s Little Russian Symphony No 2.
Booking is at www.computicket.com / 0861 915 8000 / Shoprite Checkers Money Market Counters. It is cheaper to subscribe. For subscriptions contact 031 3699438.
Morning tea and symphony: Catch the final rehearsal on the morning of the scheduled concerts every Thursday during season at 10am for a nominal charge. Contact KZN Philharomic offices for bookings and for more info: firstname.lastname@example.org / 031 369 9438.
To better appreciate the music ahead of the concert: pre-concert lectures take place in the Alhambra Room at the Playhouse from 6 until 6.40pm prior to the concert every Thursday.