A NEW work by a South African composer was the highlight of the most recent concert in the spring season of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra.

Thomas Rajna, who will be 84 in December, was born in Hungary but moved to a university post in Cape Town in 1970 and has lived there ever since. In his younger days he was a concert pianist of distinction, and in recent years has become an internationally recognised composer.

His most recent work, his Violin Concerto, was written in 2007 but was given its first performance only two years ago, the soloist being the Stellenbosch violinist Suzanne Martens (pictured). Her interpretation can therefore be considered the authoritative one, and certainly her performance with the KZNPO in the Durban City Hall was outstanding in every respect.

This five-movement concerto is of course modern in style, difficult at a first hearing but not impossible. Parts of it are vaguely indicative of the composer’s eastern European heritage – one listener thought the second movement reminded him of Fiddler on the Roof! – and other sections are fast and furious.

The heart of the concerto is undoubtedly the slow movement, Lento, which has a long singing melody for the solo violin.

Suzanne Martens handled all this with great composure and skill, and she was rewarded with prolonged applause at the end. The orchestra, conducted by Naum Rousine, resident conductor with the KZNPO, was an excellent partner throughout.

The solo violinist reappeared after the interval in Beethoven’s Romance in F major, in which she conveyed accurately the calm repose of this beautiful piece.

Mendelssohn made up the rest of the programme, the Hebrides Overture (Fingal’s Cave) and the Symphony No. 4 (the “Italian”).

The orchestra’s playing was precise and brisk, and much to the pleasure of the audience. – Artsmart.co.za