WILLIAM CHARLTON-PERKINS reviews the closing Winter Season concert of the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra’s 2018 Word Symphony Series.
Conductors: Cathrine Winnes, Msizi Mnyandu
Soloists: Nozuko Teto, Siphokazi Maphumulu (sopranos), Ntokozo Mhlongo (alto), Khulekani Khumalo (tenor), Andile Dlamini (bass)
Choirs: Clermont Community Choir, Durban Symphonic Choir, Thokozani Choral Society
Venue: Playhouse Opera
Date: Thursday 28 June
The KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra’s Winter Season in the Playhouse Opera ended on Thursday. Perplexingly. With Norwegian Cathrine Winnes on the podium, we had an evening of music making that had the orchestra sounding as if they were playing on autopilot. Not a player out of sync, meticulously rehearsed, dispatching the goods like the pros they are. Each musician on stage with eyes unremittingly trained on the score in front of them, all the while Ms Winnes a determined presence on the podium, literally delivering every beat, every cue, with palpable determination, as if consciously underscoring her agents’ online pronouncement that “Cathrine’s energetic musical style has seen her transcend classical music’s usual boundaries.”
Usual boundaries? What we had in the first half were readings of Beethoven’s Fidelio Overture and Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony that struck this listener as described above, sparsely nuanced, short on fantasy and poetry, but yes, big on energy that had a beginning, middle and end.
The second half of the evening offered a mixed bag of vocal and choral items which, thanks to the evening’s soloists and massed chorus, provided more aural ‘face’ to the proceedings. Following a full throated account of Handel’s Coronation Anthem, ‘Zadok the Priest’, soprano Nozuko Teto gave a sensitive rendering Merab’s touching aria, ‘Author of Peace’ from of Act 2 of Handel’s oratorio Saul. This was followed by committed accounts of John Knox Bokwe’s ‘Plea for Africa’, and Mnomiya’s ‘Madiba’ – a timeous centennial nod to our illustrious former President, Nelson Mandela, with Brian Msizi Mnyandu on the podium.
Sibisi’s Credo (Ngiyakholwa) from his Zulu Mass in B flat, suggesting a large-scale Haydn choral ensemble, received a whole-hearted outing, followed by an appropriately doleful Lacrimosa from Mozart’s Requiem. If the inclusion of Haydn’s climactic ‘The heavens are telling the glory of God’ from The Creation less than a year after it was last performed on the World Symphony Series stage denoted an unwonted degree of repetitive programming, it nonetheless provided a rousing close.