The final concert of the KZN Philharmonic’s Late Spring Season on Thursday (November 16) sees the orchestra’s associate guest conductor, Daniel Boico, making a welcome return to the Durban City Hall podium. The evening will be devoted to music by Rossini, Saint-Saëns and Haydn.
Semiramide, Rossini’s neo-classical masterpiece, premiered at La Fenice in Venice in 1823 with his wife, the Spanish soprano Isabella Colbran, singing the title role. The last opera the composer wrote for the Italian stage before settling in Paris, the work stands as a grand summation of the classical opera seria form.
Set to a libretto based on a drama by Voltaire, it focuses on a love triangle between Semiramide, Queen of Babylon, an evil prince and a young man of whom Semiramide is at first enamoured, but who turns out to be her son. The opera’s magnificent Overture, which thematically forecasts its grandiose plot, held the stage as a self-standing concert piece throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, long before the opera’s return to the repertoire in recent decades.
Saint-Saëns’ Cello Concerto No 1 in A minor follows. The work was written for the Belgian virtuoso Auguste Tolbecque, who premiered it in January 1873 at a Paris Conservatoire concert, where it was hailed by the music historian, Sir Francis Tovey as “a violoncello concerto in which the solo instrument displays every register without the slightest difficulty in penetrating the orchestra."
Many composers, including Shostakovich and Rachmaninoff, considered the work to be the greatest of all cello concertos. It offers a superb showcase for the KZN Philharmonic’s Associate Principal Cellist, Aristide du Plessis, as the first of the evening’s soloists.
After intermission, Durban concert-goers will have the exciting opportunity of experiencing two young stars-in-the-making, Sibongile Mntambo (soprano) and Thando Mjandana (tenor), appearing in their professional debuts as guest soloists with the Clermont Community Choir, in highlights from Haydn’s oratorio, The Creation.
Cape Town based Mntambo and Mjandana are part of the wave of South Africa’s new generation of operatic talent that in recent years has produced luminaries such as Pumeza Matshikiza, Pretty Yende, Levy Sekgapane and Makudu Senoana, among others.
The Creation came into being when Haydn was an acclaimed 65-year-old veteran with a distinguished career behind him as a composer of symphonies, operas, masses, string quartets and piano music. Exposure to Handel’s great oratorios, while on a visit to London, inspired the Viennese master to conquer the Handelian oratorio too. Its first public performance in London in April 1800 was greeted with wild acclaim. Haydn’s delight in illustrating each part of nature infused the score with a life-force that swiftly ensured its honoured place in the annals of choral singing.
The work offers a fitting climax to our concert season, which also celebrates 25 years of collaboration between the Clermont choristers and the KZN Philharmonic. The concert starts at 7.30pm, and booking for this not-to-be-missed event is through Computicket on 0861 915 8000, or online at www.computicket.com.
Meanwhile, chamber music lovers can look forward to an evening of music for piano and clarinet duo by 20th century composers, when pianist Joanna Wicherek and clarinetist Tiaan Uys appear in recital for Friends of Music at the Jewish Centre on Tuesday (November 14).
Their programme includes: the Fantasie Italienne by Eugène Bozza; Wiatr od morza by Jacek Grudzień; Robert Muczyński’s Time pieces; Witold Lutosławski’s Dance Preludes; Francis Poulenc’s Sonata for Clarinet and Piano; and Four Hungarian Dances by Rezső Kókai.
The evening’s prelude performer at this concert will be Lungelo Hlophe (tenor) from Lihlthembe High School who won second prize at the recent I Grandi Tenori schools Opera singing competition. Tickets at the door are R80 (members), R100 (non-members) and R20 (students). Safe parking is available at the venue, which is situated at 44 KE Masinga (Old Fort) Road.