concert of the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra at the Ilija M. Kolarac Foundation Concert Hall, Conductor: Frank Cramer Lisa Smirnova, piano Program: M. Mihajlovic: Memento L. van Beethoven: Concerto for piano and orchestra No. 3, c-moll A. fon Zemlinsky: Die Seejungfrau Belgrade, 03.04.2009. photo Marko Djokovic/PRESS

Michael Green

A mysterious last-minute change of programme caused much puzzlement and speculation at the final concert of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra’s Spring Season in the Durban City Hall.

The programme was to have consisted mainly of Carl Orff’s hour-long choral work, Carmina Burana. Two days before the event the orchestra sent out an e-mail saying this would be replaced by Dvorak’s New World Symphony.

Not everyone is on the e-mailing list, and many customers arrived at the City Hall expecting to hear Carmina Burana.

In a speech from the stage on other matters, the orchestra’s chief executive, Bongani Tembe, said the programme had been changed because of “the indisposition of the scheduled conductor”. This was Tibor Boganyi, a Hungarian who had conducted the two previous concerts to much acclaim.

But Carmina Burana was to have featured two distinguished vocal soloists and a choir of about 100 singers. It has been performed many times in South Africa and it’s hard to believe no other conductor could take over at short notice.

Ah well, with the German conductor Frank Cramer on the podium, the new programme was a great success.

Cramer has an imposing international resume which suggests he is about 50 years old, but he looks younger. He is a fairly restrained conductor, not given to extravagant gestures, but his steady beat and economical movements drew a fine response from the players.

The concert opened with Ottorino Respighi’s atmospheric Fountains of Rome, written in 1816. Then came Ravel’s celebrated Bolero. Not everybody loves its hypnotic repetition, but it is one of the most remarkable pieces in the concert repertory. The orchestra, at its full complement of 70 players, gave a brilliant performance.

Finally Dvorak’s From the New World, one of the great masterworks, was delivered with the enthusiasm and affection it deserves. A glowing interpretation was acknowledged in a prolonged ovation at the end. –