WILLIAM CHARLTON-PERKINS reviews the final Late Spring Season concert of the KwaZulu-Natal’s 2017 Word Symphony Series
CONDUCTOR: DANIEL BOICO
SOLOISTS: ARISTIDE DU PLESSIS (CELLO); S’BONIGLIE MNTAMBO & SIPHOKAZI MAPHUMULO (SOPRANOS); THANDO MJANDANA (TENOR); THUNZI NOKUBEKA (BASS)
CHOIR: CLERMONT COMMUNITY CHOIR
VENUE: DURBAN CITY HALL
DATE: THURSDAY 16 NOVEMBER
The final concert of the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra’s 2017 Late Spring Season in the Durban City Hall on Thursday (16 November) was a red letter event. It marked 25 years of collaboration between the Orchestra and Durban’s leading choral group, the multi-award winning Clermont Community Choir. To celebrate the occasion, Associate Guest Conductor Daniel Boico conducted a mixed bag programme of music by Rossini, Saint-Saëns and Haydn.
The evening opened with the Overture to Rossini’s Italian operatic magnum opus, Semiramide. Boico’s beautifully judged reading of the piece did full justice to this grand-scale prototype of the classic Rossini overture - from its imposing opening, its mournful horn passages presaging the opera’s doom-laden scene which evokes of the long-dead king being recalled from the afterlife, to full-throttle abandon in the Italian composer’s celebrated crescendos.
All eyes were on Aristide du Plessis as the KZNPO’s Co-Principal Cellist stepped into the solo spot to perform Saint-Saëns’ Cello Concerto No I in A minor. His performance exuded a relaxed confidence that made light of the work’s formidable bravura challenges in the first movement, and an innate feeling of repose that enhanced the magical second movement, in which the soloist was delicately framed by the stealthily tip-toeing pizzicato strings of his colleagues.
Enchanting music, superbly played, as was the work’s dazzlingly virtuosic third movement. Du Plessis brought off this off to the manner born. It is a testament of the KZNPO’s international level of accomplishment that it embraces musicians of this calibre in its ranks. More please.
Highlights from Joseph Haydn’s magnificent oratorio, The Creation, followed in the second half of the evening, with Maestro Boico as ever exercising a galvanizing presence on the podium. The extremely accomplished performance from soloists, choir and orchestra alike begs the question: why was the work given in extracts, and not complete?
The KZNPO players clearly relished Haydn’s wonderfully evocative writing, with Junan Sun’s luminous clarinet yet again proving a standout, and the Clermont choristers gave a thrilling demonstration of the full-bodied sound that has brought them fame. Joined by the fine quartet of soloists, their renderings of ‘The heavens are telling’, ‘The Lord is great’ and ‘Sing the Lord’ were as exhilarating as they possibly can be.
Hearing debut performances such as we did from soprano S’bonigile Mntambo and tenor Thando Mjandana made one long to hear them singing the work’s glorious arias written for Gabriel and Uriel, which were cut. Both singers - clearly the beneficiaries of excellent tuition, with distinctive vocal timbres, sophisticated musicality and good projection - have the capacity to do these roles proud. The bass, Thunzi Nokubeka, and second soprano, Siphokazi Maphumulo, likewise, acquitted themselves with distinction.