Yulianna Avdeeva

MELODIUS music from the 19th century and an exceptionally gifted pianist gave much pleasure to a good-sized audience in the Durban City Hall at last week’s concert of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra.

The soloist was Yulianna Avdeeva (pictured), a 27-year-old Russian pianist who is making a big name for herself in Europe and the US. It is easy to hear and see why. She is a slim, trim figure with a keyboard presence that is calm and refreshingly free of affectation. Her technical prowess is outstanding and she must have considerable stamina. She played two major works, one after the other, and was on stage for about an hour, with enough zest left to deliver a virtuoso encore.

The concert opened with composer Cesar Franck’s Symphonic Variations, written in 1885 and one of this composer’s most attractive works, less solemn than some others.

The first notes showed Avdeeva to be an expressive and sensitive pianist, with admirably controlled and delicate gradations of tone.

This impression was reinforced in Chopin’s Piano Concerto No 2 in F minor, which dates from 1830, when Chopin was 20. Here again there was plenty of brilliance, but the lasting memory is of the lyrical quality of her playing. In the cantabile passages she really made the piano sing, especially in the exquisite slow movement.

The conductor, Daniel Boico of New York, was an admirable partner, and the orchestra excelled. Chopin’s orchestral score is often criticised (somewhat unjustly, in my opinion) as being inadequate, but the KZNPO really did make the most of it.

The audience response was highly enthusiastic, with even the orchestra players applauding the pianist at the end. As an encore the Russian gave a glittering account of Chopin’s Waltz in A flat major, Op 34, No 1.

Finally the orchestra performed Georges Bizet’s lively and tuneful Symphony No 1 in C. Bizet is, of course, best known as the composer of Carmen and other operas. He died in 1875 at the age of 36 following respiratory and heart problems; he was a heavy smoker. His Symphony in C was written at the age of 17 and was not performed until 1935, when Felix Weingartner conducted it in Basel, Switzerland.

Boico is a dynamic kind of conductor and his vigorous approach was particularly well suited to this exuberant and romantic music.

Tonight the KZNPO hosts Britten’s 100th anniversary with the music director of Symphony Nova Scotia, Bernhard Gueller, who will lead the KZNPO in performances of the Four Sea Interludes from Britten’s most famous work, the opera Peter Grimes. – Artsmart.co.za