Nina Schumann

A programme of extreme contrasts was presented by the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra in the latest concert of its winter season in the Durban City Hall.

It is hard to think of two more different composers than Johannes Brahms and George Gershwin, the old world and the new. But the combination of a Gershwin concerto and a Brahms symphony worked remarkably well in this concert, and the result was a highly enjoyable evening.

The programme opened with an unusual item involving only 14 players, 11 brass and three percussion. This was the Fanfare for the Common Man by the 20th century US composer Aaron Copland. Written in a spirit of patriotism during World War II, it is a resounding piece. The players excelled, as did the visiting Israeli-American conductor, Daniel Boico.

Even better was Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F, with Nina Schumann as soloist. This South African is relatively young, but she has an imposing musical record, more than 140 concerto performances with orchestras here and in Europe and the US, and 40 concertos in her repertory.

The Gershwin concerto is a brilliant work based on jazz; it has strong rhythms, with off-beat accents and sharp harmonies, but it also has many lyrical passages. Schumann gave an outstanding performance in the challenging piano part, and Boico conducted with great vigour, communica-ting his enthusiasm to the players. Prolonged applause at the end signified the happiness of the audience, and the players seemed to derive much pleasure from the concerto.

Brahms’s Symphony No 2 in D Major is the most genial and serene of his four symphonies and Boico gave it a loving, warm interpretation. The work is full of beautiful melodies and the exciting climax at the end carried the audience away, judging by the storm of applause. –