Summer time and the living is easy ... Well, not if you're a member of the KwaZulu Natal Philharmonic Orchestra - the "living" is busy this time of year, as the new KZN Philharmonic Orchestra World Symphony Series (WSS) kicks off with a bang - next Thursday, February 10 at the Durban City Hall.

The orchestra which as classical music lovers will already know, is renowned for featuring an impressive line-up of international artists and the cream of South Africa's own classical musicians will begin their new series with Russian Romanticism, a concert featuring gifted Russian siblings Olga (piano) and Vladimir Kern (conductor). Olga will be making a welcome return to Durban for a double bill of Rachmaninov concertos.

"The momentum of the KZN Philharmonic's successful and historic tour of Europe, towards the end of 2004, continues to inspire us, thus ensuring that our highly anticipated World Symphony Series 2005 Summer Season starts on a high note," said Bongani Tembe, Chief Executive and Artistic Director of the KZNPO.

Tembe added, "I am delighted that this 2005 Summer Season will also showcase the work of Qinisela Sibisi, an active participant in our New Music initiative which is a programme designed to highlight the talents of local composers. The world premiere performance of Sibisi's moving Zulu Mass in B Flat will mark yet another historic milestone in the life of this leading orchestra."

But, back to the launch concert this year in Durban where a double bill of Rachmaninov concertos, Piano Concerto No 2 and Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini will be on the programme for the launch evening of the series. Scalzone's Revolution Square completes the programme.

Accomplished conductor Omri Hadari begins his three-concert engagement in grand style on February 17, with works by Bruch and Bruckner. Lauded for her expressive and rich tone, violinist Sarah Oates joins the maestro on stage for this, her debut concert with the KZNPO.

She will perform Bruch's Violin Concerto No 1, whilst the second half will be filled by the glorious sounds of Bruckner's Symphony No 4 Romantic.

On February 24, Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No 1 will provide a fitting debut for dynamic young Israel-based pianist Boris Giltburg, The orchestra is then set the challenge of Mahler's monumental Fifth Symphony.

Making a welcome return to Durban on March 3 is internationally renowned pianist Melvyn Tan. In a concert featuring the brilliance of Mozart, it opens with the solemn Divertimento KV334, followed by the lyrical second movement of the composer's demanding Piano Concerto No 21 and concluding with the robust spirit of Symphony No. 41 Jupiter.

Adrian Sunshine, conductor of The London Chamber Players, launches his two-concert engagement on March 10 with a programme that showcases the abundant talents of South African artists.

The KZNPO's New Music Initiative starts with the world premier performance of Qinisela Sibisi's Zulu Mass. The soloists will be Zenhlanhla Cibane (soprano), Thulile Hadebe (mezzo-soprano), Mhlonishwa Dlamini (tenor) and Bongani Vilakazi (baritone). They will be accompanied by the award winning East Coast Choristers.

The concert opens with Vivaldi's Opus 3, No 8 in A minor and Mendelssohn's Symphony No 5 Reformation is featured in the second half.

Music that combines irrepressible romance with a streak of witty mischievousness provides Francois du Toit, who is undoubtedly among the finest of South Africa's pianists, with a challenging platform for his return to the Durban stage on March 17 when he will perform Saint-Saen's Piano Concerto No 2.

Conducted by Adrian Sunshine, the programme opens with Ravel's Ma mere I Oye (Mother Goose) Suite and is completed with Prokofiev's Fifth Symphony.

The final concert of the Summer Season on March 24 will bring the curtain down in pictorial fashion. The KZNPO's principal horn player Katie Pryce takes centre stage and, under the baton of the highly regarded Victor Yampolsky, explores the technical and expressive possibilities of the horn with Strauss's Second Horn Concerto.

Wagner's Flying Dutchman: Overture sets the scene of the evening. The second half begins with Wagner's glorious opera Siegfried Idyll and Hindemith's Mathis der Maler: Symphony provides a fitting end to the concert with its picturesque themes.

The KZN Philharmonic is always mindful of the prevailing economic situation and as such, have kept their ticket prices at an affordable level. You can benefit from significant savings on single ticket prices by booking for multiple concerts. Readers interested in taking out subscriptions can do so by telephoning 031 369 9404/369 9477 or by email [email protected]

Public booking for individual concerts in the above season is now open at Computicket. Every WSS concert is preceded by a musically illustrated introductory talk presented by the KZNPO in association with the Friends of Music. These talks are designed to enlighten and entertain.

The admission price of R20 per person includes light refreshments. The Pre-Concert lectures take place at the Royal Hotel at 6.15pm.

In addition to the World Symphony Series, the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra will perform at many other concerts in and around Durban including a Valentine's Day concert on Monday February 14, at the Durban Botanic Gardens, in the first of four concerts which form Nedbank's Music at the Lake series.

The musical programme features a mixture of light classical pieces interspersed with some popular favourites. The soloist will be the incredibly talented cabaret star Daniele Pascal. There are prizes to be won in a raffle, the money from which will be donated to the Tsunami Relief Fund.

The concert will start at 6.30pm. Tickets through Computicket or from Friends of Botanic Gardens on 031 202 5819.

The Starlight Pop Opera, sponsored by FNB Corporate, will take place at the Durban Country Club on Sunday June 5. Further details can be obtained by calling the KZNPO on 031 369 9438.