Bye, astrophysics! Hi, trombone!

Italian-born musician Andrea Balocco is the soloist with the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra on March 9.


UNTIL he was 17, Italian-born musician Andrea Balocco had always wanted to be an astrophysicist. Then he met Christian Lindberg, a trombone player who inspired him to practise and learn to play the instrument that now has him hooked and following a fulfilling career.

Today Balocca is the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra’s principal trombonist – and will be taking the solo spotlight on March 9 when the orchestra performs its fifth concert in its six-concert Summer Symphony Season at the Playhouse Opera, from 7.30pm.

Japanese conductor Yasuo Shinozaki and the orchestra will open that concert with Edvard Grieg’s Holberg Suite, and Balocco, a master’s graduate from Geneva University, will steal the limelight in the Trombone Concerto for Orchestra by Danish composer Launy Grøndahl.

The evening will close with Beethoven’s Symphony No 7 in A major – one of the composer’s most revered masterworks. It is a paean to heroic patriotism.

Asked about his passion for trombone, Balocco smiles and says he greatly enjoys “the feelings aroused during a performance”.

He adds: “I even enjoy the stress – and whoever says they have no stress during or before a performance is lying – and I love the fact that I am saying something with my instrument.”

Discussing his solo work planned for March 9, he explains that Trombone Concerto for Orchestra is known to trombone aficiandos, but  “fairly new to pretty much everyone else”.

“It is a late Romantic piece in three movements, and the peculiarities of this piece of music are that every movement has a short title that should help understand what the movement is about. Also, the composer used the same pulse during the three movements, almost like a red thread – but in a very clever way in each movement, so that it is different every time.”

Music-lovers should come to the concert on March 9 because it offers an opportunity to hear something different, he says: “Come and enjoy an instrument that you usually only see as part of the orchestra, not often as a solo piece”.

Of all instruments to choose, why did Balocca turn to the trombone?

“Well, because it’s the best one. of course! Joking… it is actually a long story, but, in short, I started playing music when I was six – on the euphonium, a smaller version of a tuba.

“When I was 12, I started studying at the Conservatoir. They did not have a course for euphonium. so I had to switch to the trombone, and honestly, I was not happy about it. But after three months I did not want to touch the euphonium again.”

Away from music, Balocco describes himself as “a nerd of note”.

“I have a hobby which is called Warhammer. It’s a table-top strategy wargame. It has small models and terrains, and is basically a more elaborate version of chess, with dice-rolling involved.

“What I enjoy is the fact that you build and paint your own models. It helps me zone out, to relax my mind”.

Booking for the KZNPO concerts is at Computicket. It is cheaper to subscribe: for subscriptions contact 031 3699438.

To better appreciate the music ahead of the concert: pre-concert lectures take place in the Alhambra Room at the Playhouse from 6pm to 6.40pm prior to the concert every Thursday.

NOTE… this week’s KZNPO concert, on March 2, will be conducted by Daniel Boico and will feature pianist Mariam Batsashvili as soloist.

The programme includes Mendelssohn’s The Hebrides Overture (Fingal’s Cave); Liszt’s Piano Concerto No 1; and Brahms’s Symphony No 1 in C minor. The pre-concert lecture is by Dr Teddy Pillay.

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