Peter Bruns

The KZN Philharmonic’s first concert of the year presented, to great acclaim from a large audience, music by three Russian composers from the 19th and 20th centuries.

The Durban City Hall programme ranged from the unfamiliar to the very familiar, from Shostakovich to Tchaikovsky. The standard of performance was uniformly good, and the players were rewarded with enthusiastic applause throughout the concert.

The Israeli-born American conductor, Daniel Boico, who is well known here, was in splendid form. He is a vigorous and dynamic figure on the podium and the orchestra responded admirably to his forceful style.

The soloist of the evening, the German cellist Peter Bruns (pictured), added greatly to the success of the concert.

The orchestra opened with Mikhail Glinka’s exuberant Russlan and Ludmilla Overture, written in 1842 by a pioneer of Russian orchestral music.

This was followed by a very different kind of music, Dmitri Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 2, written in 1966. This is an uncompromisingly modern work, much of it rather grim and bleak, and part of it lightened by the use of a jaunty street song from the Black Sea port of Odessa.

Bruns, on his third visit to Durban, was as outstanding as the cello soloist. His technical skill and emotional commitment were compelling and carried the audience though a rather difficult work. One person said to me afterwards: “I didn’t care much for the music, but the soloist really got through to me.”

After the interval came a brilliant performance of Tchaikovsky’s celebrated Symphony No 6, the Pathetique. Tchaikovsky him- self conducted the first perfor- mance of this work nine days before his death, from cholera, in 1893, a death that may have been accidental or may have been suicidal.

Boico was totally absorbed as he conveyed to the audience the passion and tragedy of this music, and the orchestra played with great power and commitment.

Conductor and players were given a prolonged ovation at the end of a concert that showed once again that with music like this there is really no substitute for a live performance. –