WILLIAM CHARLTON-PERKINS reviews the opening Spring Season concert of the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra’s 2018 Word Symphony Series.
CONDUCTOR: WILLIAM EDDINS
SOLOIST: RACHEL LEE PRIDAY (VIOLIN)
VENUE: DURBAN CITY HALL
DATE: THURSDAY 1 NOVEMBER
American maestro William Eddins, Music Director Emeritus of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, returned to the KZN Philharmonic podium to launch the season with a programme comprising just two works. The conductor made his bow alongside the gifted young American violinist Rachel Lee Priday, with a commanding performance of Brahms’s Violin Concerto that left the audience in no doubt why this young soloist is famed for her beauty of tone.
Priday demonstrated deep introspection in the tenderness of her playing, delivering a performance that married meditation with thrilling bravura, as she engaged hand-in-glove with Eddins and his finely responsive KZNPO forces. Dispatching the great work’s combative fortissimo climbs in the outer movements with seeming abandon, she made time stand still in the rapture of its glorious adagio, joining in on high with that ethereal chorus of winds which ushers in one of Brahms’s most sublime moments.
The second half of the evening was given over to Sibelius’s three-movement Fifth Symphony. Sibelius was commissioned to write this work by the Finnish government in honour of his 50th birthday, which was declared a national holiday. Originally composed in 1915, it was revised in 1916 and again in 1919. During the composition phase, Sibelius wrote in his diary: "It is as if God Almighty had thrown down pieces of a mosaic for heaven’s floor and asked me to find out what was the original pattern”.
After grappling with the work through its try-out phases, the composer’s final outcome is certainly one of the most profoundly absorbing works in the repertoire - massively occluded clouds that overhang the densely tumultuous writing of its opening movement giving way with intense originality to the magical second movement’s delicate pizzicato strings, hypnotically engaging with long-held winds and brass; then eerily rushing strings and abrasive tutti joining forces in a finale of extreme contrast.
The stark soundscape of this score like none other was superbly executed, from first to last. The evening’s meagre audience who braved the inclement weather were well rewarded.