Friends of Music Recitals 2018



16 January 2018 - Recitalists Kramer and Durcan on top form

Review by William Charlton-Perkins

Friends of Music launched its 2018 series at the Durban Jewish Centre on Tuesday (16 January) with a recital by the American violinist Miriam Kramer and her regular partner, British pianist Nicholas Durcan.

Engaging these distinguished artists, who delivered an evening of superb music making, proved a major coup. They opened their finely curated programme with Bartok’s six contrasting Romanian Dances, written for piano between 1915 and 1917, here arranged for violin and piano by Zoltan Szekely. These were followed by the sublime Adagio from JS Bach’s Sonata No 3 in E Major BWV 1016 for Violin and Keyboard, music straight from heaven if ever there was.

The centre piece of the evening’s programme, Sir Edward Elgar’s highly charged but rarely heard Sonata for Violin and Piano Opus 82 was performed with both intensity and tenderness, evoking the sense of nostalgia that is a hallmark of Elgar's oeuvre, particularly his late compositions. Composed in 1918, while staying at Brinkwells Cottage in the idyllic woods of West Sussex in England, the Sonata was among the last works he wrote.

As a timely nod to the current upsurge of global women’s solidarity, Kramer and Durcan opened the second half of their programme with an impromptu inclusion of the charming Romance Opus 23 by the American composer, Amy Beach (1867 – 1944).

The varied pace and tone of the programme continued with idiomatic performances of Robert Schumann’s Fantasiestucke Opus 73; two tangos by Astor Piazzolla, Oblivion and Libertango; and Swiss Jewish composer Ernest Bloch’s passionate Nigun (from Baal Shem). The evening ended with Kramer’s bravura account of Pablo de Sarasate’s flamboyantly virtuosic Zigeunerweisen Opus 20, which brought the audience to its feet.

FOM presented Rachel Wedderburn-Maxwell in its opening Prelude Performer slot.  The 15-year-old Durban Girls College learner played Kreisler’s taxing Praeludium and Adagio for Violin with confidence, accompanied at the piano by Molly Chen. Then, switching instruments, she followed this feat with even more aplomb, despatching Mendelssohn’s Rondo and Capriccioso Opus 14 for Piano with an astonishing degree of accomplishment.


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6 February 2018 - Recital duo in full flight

Review by William Charlton-Perkins

Virtuoso oboist Myfanwy Price took her Friends of Music concert audience by storm at the Durban Jewish Centre last night, February 6. Accompanied by Liesl-Maret Jacobs, the young British musician was making her solo debut appearance in the city since her appointment to the KZN Philharmonic’s principal oboe desk last year. It was heartening to see a number of her colleagues in the audience in support of the event.

The evening opened on a light-hearted note with a performance of the Morceau de Salon by the Czech composer, Johann Kalliwoda (1801 – 1866). The piece proved a delicious early example of the palm court salon music genre that prevailed later in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Price and Jacobs dispatched its lilting strains with infectious élan.

Their performance of Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin offered a surprise. Originally conceived as a neo baroque suite of six pieces for solo piano, subsequently scored for orchestra, Ravel wrote the work between 1914 and 1917 in memory of friends who had died during the Great War. Here it was given in an arrangement for oboe and piano by Christian Schmitt and Laurent Riou.

This proved revelatory for its sparkling interplay of instrumental colours, giving fresh insight into Ravel’s lively writing. Jacobs’s subtly articulated playing, alternately delicate and boldly assertive, matched Price’s joyous trajectory of Ravel’s ever-changing moods - bustling playfulness subsiding into an air of calm, then giving way to carefree skipping and prancing gaiety. Marvellous stuff.

Price’s bent for individual programming was further in evidence in the item that followed - The Sapphire by the contemporary British composer David Heath (b 1956). Dedicated to his daughter after whom the piece is named, it superbly evokes the sounds of bagpipes, heard in the distance across the fields as the composer was out walking on the day of his child’s birth. Jacobs’s restrained touch at the piano sparsely suggested the drone of the pipes during the piece’s haunting opening strains, giving way to Price’s exuberant oboe in free fall, indulging in a joyous Scottish dance.

Robert Schumann’s Adagio and Allegro, originally scored for French horn and piano, fared well in the transcription we heard for oboe and piano, the players astutely highlighting the work’s strong affinity with a Romantic bel canto opera aria and cabaletta.

After intermission we were treated to further rarities. A lusciously full-blown account of Eugène Bozza’s Fantaisie Pastorale offered Price a platform to display her bravura skills in a dazzlingly climactic cadenza. Henri Dutilleaux’s Sonata for Oboe and Piano offered further atmospheric mood-setting, the composer’s sharply-etched writing conveying an idiosyncratic flow of ideas in this early piece from his oeuvre.

By way of a palate cleanser, the starkly scored Pieskarieni for solo oboe, written by Pēteris Vasks (b 1946), eerily realised the composer’s intention of evoking the dark forces of nature in conflict with humanity (as introduced by Price before her remarkable performance of the piece).

The programme ended with an all-stops-out account, spectacularly delivered by Price in full flight, of the Themes and Variations from Donizetti’s Opera, La Favorita by Antonio Pasculli (1844 -1924).

Prelude performer Tyrell Pillay proved an adept interpreter of Slonimsky’s Modhin Russo-Brasileira, Debussy’s billowing Arabesque No 1 and Heller’s Prelude in C sharp minor, offering up Granados’s Andalusia as an encore.

- Review by William Charlton-Perkins

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6 March 2018 -The Auner Quartet for FOM

Review by William Charlton-Perkins

Friends of Music is proud to present a leading string quartet from Austria on March 6. The Auner Quartet comprises Daniel Auner (1st violin); Barbara Auner (2nd violin); Nikita Gerkusov (viola), and Konstantin Zelenin (cello).

The Auner Quartet is said to display ‘’stylistic confidence and willingness to impress with emotions”, and that “for all four of them - chamber music seems to be the essence of music itself".

The Quartet, from Vienna, is rapidly gaining popularity and recognition in the world of chamber music. It was founded in the spring of 2013 by the four young artists who come from Austria, Brazil and Belarus, but share the same educational background.

As passionate chamber musicians, independent from any contracts with orchestras, the quartet strives not only to explore the extensive quartet repertoire, but also to present their unique voice within the music. They bring refinement and prowess to both new and established repertoire.

Their programme includes Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 4 in C Minor, Op. 18; Mozart’s String Quartet in D Major KV 136; Schubert’s Quartettsatz in C Minor and Johanna Doderer’s String Quartet Nr. 4 “Mattsee”.

The Prelude Performer for the evening will be Dhenishta Mikaela Chetty (soprano) a 17-year-old matric pupil year at Maris Stella Girls School. She is a member of her school choir and the KZN Youth Choir. Her programme will include I Could Have Danced All Night from My Fair Lady by Frederick Loewe/ Alan Jay Lerner and Deh vieni non tardar from Le Nozze di Figaro by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Her accompanist is Dana Hadjiev.

- Review by William Charlton-Perkins

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20 March 2018 - James Grace & Morgan Szymanski

Review by Stavros Anthias

An evening to remember

Tuesday’s (March 27, 2018) Friends of Music recital at The Durban Jewish Centre was held in association with Christopher Duigan’s Music Revival. Both associations strive to provide programmes of musical excellence to music-lovers within the province.

Aptly titled Together Again, the recital featured classical guitarists James Grace, from Cape Town, and Morgan Szymanski, from Mexico City, who have been on a national tour, presenting an eclectic programme of Latin music, either written for, or especially arranged for classical guitar. (Music from Spain, Mexico, and Brazil featured) They previously toured the country as a duo in 2015.

The music ranged from compositions by Ferdinando Carulli (1770 - 1841) to modern day composers Celso Machado (b 1953) and Paulo Bellinati (b 1950) Szymanski has personally collaborated with some of the modern composers.

It was such a treat hearing two, classical guitars in such sympathetic unison, each soloist complimenting the other beautifully. They have fine-tuned their collaboration, so that the emphasis seamlessly flowed from one soloist to the other.

Excellent finger-work was the order of the evening, with beautiful tone and colour being abundantly evident from each soloist.

For me, the highlights of the evening were the hauntingly beautiful Recuerdos de la Alhambra by Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909) which vividly evokes the famous fountains of The Alhambra in Granada, and Danza Española from La Vida Bréve by Manuel de Falla (1876-1946)

The more modern compositions featured interesting strumming and patting of the strings, and the “banging” of the guitars to provide some intricate, rhythmic percussion.

The joy of an evening in the hands of these two accomplished soloists was not only hearing well - known favourites, but to be exposed to new material, and to have one’s musical horizons expanded.

The performers received warm applause from a very appreciative audience, and it was certainly an evening to remember.

The Prelude Performer was Sbani Mwelasi, a baritone with a rich, powerful voice, who gave an impressive performance of arias from Verdi’s Macbeth and Rossini’s Barber of Seville.

- Review by Stavros Anthias

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10 April 2018 - Display of virtuoso talent

Review by William Charlton-Perkins

KZN music lovers are currently the beneficiaries of a new spirit of collaboration between Durban’s Friends of Music (FOM) and Christopher Duigan’s Pietermaritzburg-based Music Revival associations. This welcome trend saw the latter offering up a combination of two of its recent programmes that have been performed across the province, telescoped into one, for the benefit of FOM’s audience at the Durban Jewish Centre on Tuesday 10 April. WILLIAM CHARLTON-PERKINS reviews the event.

Display of virtuoso talent

Performing something of a double bill, pianist Duigan shared the stage with cellist Aristide du Plessis in the first half of the evening. With both instrumentalists presented as equal partners, this showcased the emotive vocality of cello as a solo instrument, with a selection of items built around Rachmaninoff’s towering Sonata for Cello and Piano in G minor Opus 19.

An ‘easy lift-off’ was effected as the two musicians played an engaging coupling of Ave Maria settings by Caccini and Piazzolla. Du Plessis then stepped up to the microphone to introduce the Rachmaninoff masterwork. He highlighted the impact the work left on him as a nascent soloist, when as a young teenager, he heard the great Russian cellist Alexander Ivashkin play is at a FOM recital 13 years ago. The experience of being privy to Ivashkin’s account of the work is best encapsulated in Du Plessis’s own words, as recounted in an interview he gave me a while back: “He had the most beautiful, enormous tone which just made the hall spin. I was very moved, even as a child, by how every movement of the work had so many beautiful melodies, and of all different types - pensive, profound, heroic, tragic, desperate, romantic, and joyous. Every emotion and feeling is in this piece, especially the third movement.

Dedicating his own performance of the work, that heart-rending third movement in particular, to the late Russian maestro, made listening to Du Plessis’s own sublime rendering of it especially poignant. I can only say my admiration for this young artist-in-our-midst continues to grow with every hearing of his thriving young maturity I am privileged to witness on our concert stages. His breath-taking virtuosity in Tchaikovsky’s show-piece, Pezzo Capricioso, brought the first half of the evening to a close with a welcome emotional reprieve.

Having more than held his own in dispatching the very considerable demands, both emotional and technical, that are embedded in the piano part of the Rachmaninoff work, the indefatigable Duigan proceeded to astonish his audience with a further display of virtuosity – both his own as a performer, and that of the endlessly fecund – but, to my ears, essentially cerebral – facility of George Gershwin. We were treated to superfine performances of the American composer’s widely-contrasting Three Preludes, followed by exquisitely played accounts of the composer’s own transcriptions, contained in the spun out Gershwin Song Book. Then onto the well-tried Rhapsody in Blue, rendered in its barnstorming solo piano edition. If the pianist wasn’t ‘wrung dry’ after delivering such an onerous programme, this listener certainly was as its recipient. What a feat!

Mention must be made of the evening’s remarkable young Prelude performer, the gifted bass singer, Ruben Mbonambi. With a velvet-textured vocal instrument of rare and authentic tonal depth and colour, he delighted his audience with a beautifully phrased performance of Sarastro’s great aria, ‘O Isis und Osiris’ from Mozart’s The Magic Flute, and a deliciously knowing account of Don Basilio’s scurrilous aria, ‘La Calunia’ from Rossini’s The Barber of Seville. This amazing young man was accompanied by Bobby Mills.

- Review by William Charlton-Perkins

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8 May 2018 - Incandescent Brahms

Review by William Charlton-Perkins

Clarinet Piano Duo
Shelley Levy and Pavel Timofeyevsky Left: Shelley Levy (clarinet) and Right: Pavel Timofeyevsky (piano) in recital for Friends of Music at the Durban Jewish Centre, May 8, 2018

Tuesday’s recital by the distinguished London-based duo of clarinetist Shelley Levy and pianist Pavel Timofeyevsky proved a bonanza for clarinet junkies like myself, and equally so for this admirer of fine pianism.

Making up for the absence of a printed programme, the two musicians engaged informally with their audience, introducing their choice of music from the stage. They opened their programme with the rousing, seamlessly elided, three-movement Duo in E flat Opus 15 by the short-lived German composer, Norbert Burgmüller. The lush, lower reaches of Levy’s clarinet sound evinced limpid grace and liquid tone, before giving way to vehement flourishes of great brilliancy on high, just ccasionally bordering on stridency, given the intimate acoustics of the venue, then falling back into the peaceful climes of the second movement, and rising to an exciting finish.

Following this, the haunting Canto Notturno by the internationally acclaimed contemporary South African composer Hendrik Hofmeyr proved a brilliant choice, as delivered with consummate simplicity by Levy and Timofeyevsky.

The high point of the evening, predictably, was its centrepiece – Brahms’s incomparable Sonata for Clarinet and Piano in f minor, opus 120 No 1. Hearing this miraculous offspring of the great German Romantic composer’s Indian Summer love affair with the clarinet, brought to life in such a nuancedperformance, was an experience to cherish, as each player offset the other with the perfect accord
that is achieved only at the highest level of music-making.

The second half of the programme opened with the duo’s virtuoso performance of Chausson’s Andante et Allegro - the piano writing strongly evocative of Schubert. Timofeyevsky went on to deliver the wow factor in two solo interludes of Debussy – the exquisitely unadorned Homage a Haydn and the viscerally flamboyant L’Isle Joyeuse. The Duo then offered well-paced renditions of contemporary French composer Eugène Bozza’s contrasting Idylle and Claribel; and the evening closed with a rare encounter with an early work by Leonard Bernstein, his spikey, jazz-inspired Sonata for Clarinet and Piano - which bears the historic imprint of the great Benny Goodman, who inspired its composition.

- Review by William Charlton-Perkins


3 July 2018 - If I Loved You

Review by Stavros Anthias

Last Tuesday’s friends of music concert, featuring Christopher Duigan, David
Salleras and Federico Freschi, drew one of the largest audiences I have ever seen
at The Jewish Centre, which was very pleasing, to say the least.

They performed an eclectic mix of varied works, and Durban was lucky to get a taste
of a recital which is going to be performed at The Grahamstown Festival.

Duigan and Salleras have enjoyed a long collaboration of making music together.
Duigan is one of our top pianists and is a celebrated Steinway Artist. Salleras has
been hailed as one of the top saxophonists in the world and enjoys an international
career. They were joined by baritone Federico Freschi in a programme of classical,
contemporary, and jazz music, and popular song.

Pizzella’s works never fail to impress, and Duigan and Salleras have developed a
sophisticated rapport and empathy as they perform, which was showcased in the
opening item, “Milonga and Re.”.

Two of the highlights of the evening were performances of their own compositions,
Duigan’s whimsical and impressive “Nocturne No.2” and Salleras’ “Rentandote” a
very rhythmic and tango inspired composition.

Salleras has amazing breath control, and produces a beautifully smooth sound,
which is perfectly accompanied by Duigan’s sensitive playing. Morricone’s “Nella
Fantasia” (Gabriel’s oboe) which translated beautifully as a solo sax work, and
Schubert’s ‘Arpeggione’ Sonata were two of my personal favourites. A composition
by Phil Woods titled “Sonata for Alto Sax” (we heard the 1 st movement) was also very
impressive with its jazz improvisation style, which allowed Salleras to show his
expertise on his instrument.

Freschi performed the popular “Largo al factotum” from Rossini’s Barber of Seville,
and popular songs from Carousel, My Fair Lady and some art songs. He has a rich,
strong baritone voice and he chose his repertoire wisely, ensuring it was well suited
to his voice. Each performer received warm applause in their own right, and their
strong performances, as soloists or in ensemble, made for a memorable evening.
The prelude performers, Ariana Carini and Alexander Comninos, both on classical
guitar, and students of master guitarist James Grace also impressed with their
performance, which showed nimble finger work and great musicality.

- Review by Stavros Anthias
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4 September 2018 - Siberian Trio

Review by Barbara Trofimczy

It was a great pleasure to hear these three highly accomplished musicians performing together.
For their concert last week on September 4, 2018, at the Durban Jewish Centre the Friends of Music presented a performance by the Siberian Trio featuring Liezl-Maret Jacobs (piano), Elena Kerimova (violin) and Boris Kerimov (cello)
It is not often that Durban music lovers get the opportunity to experience chamber music played live by artists of this calibre, and it was a great pleasure to hear these three highly accomplished musicians performing together.
It was a well thought-out, all-Beethoven programme varied in its combination of instruments, and including both well-known and lesser-known works, and as such was full of musical interest.
Special mention must be made of Ms Jacob’s impressive piano technique and subtle attention to expressive dynamic detail that complemented perfectly the lyrical quality of the strings.

- Review by Barbara Trofimczyk


9 October 2018 - The Piano Quartet

Review by William Charlton-Perkins

ARTISTS: Andrew Warburton (Piano), Violeta Osorhean (Violin), David Snaith (Viola), Aristide du Plessis (Cello)
VENUE: Durban Jewish Club
DATE: Tuesday 9 October 2018
In the wake of an exhilarating concert, a reviewer needs must step back a while, and wait, to avoid resorting to hyperbole in appraising the magic that has been experienced.  That said, I cannot recall when last I was party to such an audience ‘rush’ as this FOM event accorded those of us who came to enjoy an evening of Dvořák, Mozart and Gabriel Fauré, dispatched by four of Durban’s finest at the peak of their form. 

Clearly, 2018 will go down as Andrew Warburton’s Annus Mirabilis. On Tuesday, the pianist thrilled admirers by capping a recent series of critically acclaimed recitals in KwaZulu-Natal, with a display of the finest ensemble playing, superbly matched in three of the repertoire’s most taxing scores, by his remarkable colleagues, violinist Violeta Osorhean, violist David Snaith and cellist Aristide du Plessis. 

If ever the dictum of American mezzo soprano, Joyce DiDonato, one of today’s leading opera stars, needed underscoring, namely that unstinting work must go into the preparation for a performance, for an artist to be free to fly to untold heights, this was one such occasion. Not only were the hours of dedicated practice palpable that these four players had put them themselves through, but also the sheer commitment and enjoyment that came with it. 

And how the results showed, as they took on - and relished - the challenges embedded in the rigours and wonderful scapes of nature found in Dvorak’s youthful D Major Piano Quartet Opus 23; then going on to strike a dizzying balancing act, as they enacted the tumultuous drama of Mozart’s G minor Quartet K478; before scaling the heights of Faure’s hugely daunting C minor Piano Quartet Opus 15, probing with fine restraint, the heart ache of the great work’s profoundly moving third movement Adagio. 

Random sound images from the evening’s listening keep recurring. The exquisite, pin-prick delicacy of the three string player’s pizzicati, lightly tossed from one to the next; Osorhean’s finely-etched, lavishly-sustained legato line, her shimmering pianissimo tone; Snaith’s ‘old soul’ capacity to listen, and to meld his burnished playing with the sonorities of his colleagues’ delivery; the warm, vibrant groundswell of du Plessis’s lush sound; and, endlessly satisfying, Warburton’s indefatigable virtuosity, his matchless command of style from one piece to the next. 

More please. And soon.      

Foot note: Osorhean’s fledgling pupils, pianist-violinist Weien Amy Luo (10) and violinist Xizhi Aiden
Luo (7) made endearing appearances in the evening’s Prelude Performers slot.

Review by William Charlton-Perkins