Friends of Music Recitals 2016



6th December - Rising Star

The final concert of the year of the Friends of Music, in the Durban Jewish Centre, was, as usual, called Rising Stars and presented young performers of particular promise and ability.

The concert was organised in collaboration with the South African Society of Music Teachers and it presented nine performers, four of them singers, three pianists, a violinist and a saxophonist.  It was attended by a sizeable audience of relatives and friends.

The performers, all of them from KwaZulu-Natal, ranged in  age from 15 to 18.  The programme covered many of the standard classics, from Handel to Bartok, with some modern popular music.

Obviously it would be unfair and unproductive to apply strict critical judgment to a concert of this kind.   Suffice it to say that there was plenty of encouraging evidence that classical music is alive and well among young people in our part of the world, in spite of the many counter-attractions.

The performers were: 

  •     Nathalie Hartman, soprano, a Grade 12 pupil at Northlands Girls’ High School.
  • Kialan Pillay, aged 15, from Eden College, Durban, a pianist who played Mozart and Grieg.
  • Mitchell Green, 17, from Hilton College, saxophonist who,  accompanied by Bobby Mills, played two pieces by Debussy.
  • Sabrina Loubser, 17, from Ashton College, Ballito, who performed songs by Debussy and Delius.
  • Tyrell Pillay, 17, pianist from Eden College, playing music by Mozart, Sergei Slominsky and Bartok.
  • Simesihle Nkosi, 18, singer from Eden College, songs by Schubert and Giulio Caccini.
  • Samantha Parle, 16, pianist from Durban Girls’ College, Mendelssohn, Ginastera and Gershwin.
  • Nontobeko Bhengu, 17, singer, Handel, Puccini and Gershwin.
  • Blake Perryman, 16, violinist from Kearsney College, playing Mozart.

---Michael Green (courtesy of


15th November - Christoph Seybold (violin) and Liezl-Maret Jacobs (piano)

A high quality programme and two top performers ensured that the latest concert for the Friends of Music, at the Durban Jewish Centre, was a successful and enjoyable occasion.

The players were the internationally-known German violinist Christoph Seybold, who lives in Stuttgart, and the accomplished and versatile Durban pianist Liezl-Maret Jacobs. The programme: Beethoven, Mozart and Richard Strauss.

Beethoven’s ten sonatas for violin and piano are a treasure chest of great music, but they seem to have been rather neglected in Durban concerts in recent years. It was therefore a particular pleasure to hear an excellent performance by Seybold and Jacobs of the first of these works, Op. 12 No. 1, which dates from 1798.

This sonata is quite unlike anything that had been written before. It is bold, lyrical, spirited (and difficult), and it bears Beethoven’s special imprint, a good example being the tonal balance of the two instruments in the slow movement.

The performance was first-rate. These two players are quite calm and undemonstrative, but they delivered the music with zest and panache. And of course they did so as equal partners; the piano part is much more than a mere accompaniment to the violin.

Mozart wrote about 35 sonatas for violin and piano, and he was represented here by No. 24 in F major, K. 376. Much of this music is fast and brilliant, and here again the performers showed great skills and empathy, with Seybold producing a lovely singing tone in the quieter passages.

Finally we moved on about a hundred years to late romantic music by Richard Strauss, his Violin Sonata in E flat major, Op. 18, written in 1887 when Strauss was 23 years old. This is most attractive music, melodious, harmonically rich, with virtuoso parts for both instruments.

The audience greatly enjoyed another fine performance, and showed their appreciation with prolonged applause.

The prelude performer of the evening, supported by the National Lotteries Commission, was Kialan Pillay, a 15-year-old pupil at Eden High School. He played piano music by Mozart, Chopin and Grieg.

---Michael Green (courtesy of


8th November - Christopher Duigan, piano

Christopher Duigan of Pietermaritzburg is a true professional of the piano. He is an accomplished and indefatigable performer with a wide-ranging repertory in solo recitals, chamber music and orchestral concerts.

He plays in about 70 concerts every year, and it was entirely in character that he should step into the gap when a Friends of Music concert due to be held at the Durban Jewish Centre was cancelled by two musicians who are based in the United States.

In their place Duigan presented an all-Chopin recital, familiar music of rare quality, and he was rewarded with an enthusiastic response from a big audience.

Frederic Chopin is of course a supreme artist of the keyboard, and Duigan gave an impressive display of the poetry and romance, power and passion, of this music. Four Nocturnes, two Waltzes and three Etudes represented the shorter Chopin pieces that have been much loved by listeners and (advanced) students over the past 200 years, and there was an ample selection from the big virtuoso works – two Ballades, the Fantasie-Impromptu and a Scherzo.

Duigan has an outstanding keyboard technique, and he delivered this difficult, challenging programme with great verve and authority, sometimes with a speed and agility that drew cries of Bravo from his audience.

He introduced sections of the programme with brief comments from the stage. As a general rule I find this style of presentation a trifle tedious, but Christopher Duigan was an exception. His remarks were to the point, informative, informal and humorous.

The prelude performer of the evening, supported by the National Lotteries Commission, was Tazlo Jacobs, an 18-year-old pianist from Eden College, Durban. He played Debussy’s Clair de Lune and some jazz pieces.

---Michael Green (courtesy of


18th October - Carles Lama and Sofia Cabruga, duo pianists

The internationally known duo pianists Carles Lama and Sofia Cabruga provided an unusual and highly enjoyable evening when they played a programme of captivating Spanish music for the Friends of Music at the Durban Jewish Centre.

They themselves are both Spanish and they have been playing the piano together for nearly 30 years, winning a big reputation in Europe, America and the Far East.

Their Durban concert, their first appearance here, was devoted to music by the three greatest Spanish composers, contemporaries of a hundred years ago: Enrique Granados (1867 – 1916), Isaac Albeniz (1860---1909) and Manuel de Falla (1876-1946).

Granados died while trying to save his wife after their passenger ship was torpedoed by a German submarine in 1916; both drowned.

Albeniz spent most of his 49-year lifetime writing colourful short pieces and then in his last two years produced a 12-work piano masterpiece, Iberia.

Falla, younger than the others, was not widely known until the flying hands of the pianist Artur Rubinstein made his Ritual Fire Dance an international hit about 70 years ago.

From these composers Carles Lama and Sofia Cabruja, playing at one piano, presented 11 distinctively exotic Spanish pieces. Granados was represented by a selection from his famous suite Goyescas, written in 1911 and inspired by the paintings of Francisco Goya. The four-hand arrangement was made by Abraham Espinosa.

The performance was brilliant, vivid and robust, with the mutual empathy that one would expect from a duo who have been together for so long.

Four well-known Albeniz works named after regions of Spain, and arranged by the composer himself for four hands, brought forth more skilful playing. Perhaps the most memorable was the item called Castilla, better known in the solo version as Seguidillas, brief and brilliant.

Two strongly rhythmical and harmonically bold Spanish dances by Falla closed the programme. In response to much applause the performers gave two encores, one of them, by way of something completely different, Schubert’s Serenade.

The prelude performers of the evening, supported by the National Lotteries Commission, were two promising young Durban singers, Amanda Kosi, soprano, and Njabulo Ntobela, baritone. Accompanied at the piano by David Smith they presented arias by Rossini, Puccini and Lehar.

---Michael Green (courtesy of


27th September - Trio Elegiaque

Little known chamber music from Russia was played by three outstanding instrumentalists at the latest concert of the Friends of Music at the Durban Jewish Centre.

Any misgivings the audience might have had about the choice of programme were quickly dispelled by the sheer quality of the performance by the Trio Elegiaque.

Elegiac music is, by definition, sad; an elegy is a lamentation, usually for someone who has recently died. The three works on the programme, by Sergei Rachmaninoff, Dmitri Shostakovich and Pyotr Tchaikovsky, were all written as tributes to friends. But their basic melancholy is tempered by fluent melodies, strong rhythms and rich harmonies.

The performers were: Sergey Malov, violin, born in Russia and now an internationalist who speaks six languages fluently; Peter Martens, cello, born in Cape Town and now living in Stellenbosch; and Bryan Wallick, piano, born in the United States and now living in Pretoria.

They opened with Rachmaninoff’s Trio elegiaque No. 1 in G minor, composed in 1892 when the composer was 19. He wrote this as a tribute to Tchaikovsky, who died a year later. The composition is remarkably mature, with the sweeping melodies so typical of Rachmaninoff’s later works.

Shostakovich’s Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor provided a striking contrast. It was written in 1944, during World War 2, and is dedicated to a close friend who had died. It is strident, solemn and, in the final movement, strongly melodic, with references to Jewish traditional music.

The playing was brilliant. Bryan Wallick is a virtuoso pianist, Sergey Malov is an expressive violinist with an imposing technique, and Peter Martens obtains a full rich tone from his cello. In combination they produced a performance to remember.

Tchaikovsky’s dedicated his two-movement Piano Trio in A minor, Op. 50, to the pianist Nikolai Rubinstein, who died in 1881. Rubinstein once described Tchaikovsky’s B flat minor piano concerto, now perhaps the most famous of all concertos, as worthless and unplayable. He later changed his mind about it.

Tchaikovsky’s lyrical, passionate music is irresistible to normal ears, and the Trio Elegiaque extracted full value from this big romantic chamber work, much to the delight of the audience.

The prelude performer of the evening, supported by the National Lotteries Commission, was Morgan Rowland, an 18-year-old flute player from Wykeham Collegiate school in Pietermaritzburg.

Accompanied at the piano by Andrew Warburton, she displayed an accurate, full tone as she played the beautiful Dance of the Blessed Spirits from Gluck’s opera Orpheus and Eurydice, and a sonata movement by Paul Hindemith.

---Michael Green (courtesy of


13th September - Pallavi Mahidhara - piano

The outstanding Indian/American pianist Pallavi Mahidhara presented a programme of unusual interest when she gave a recital for the Friends of Music at the Durban Jewish Centre.

Ranging from early nineteenth century romantic to late twentieth century ultra-modern, the programme gave her plenty of opportunity to show her skills as a virtuoso and as a poetic interpreter.

She opened with Brahms’s arrangement for the left hand alone of Bach’s celebrated Chaconne, written originally (300 years ago) for the solo violin.  This magnificent work, a set of variations on a basic theme, is probably best known in the (two hand) piano transcription made by Ferrucio Busoni in 1893.  The Brahms version is rich and resonant, and Pallavi produced a remarkable performance, sweeping majestically  through its many difficulties and revealing in full its many contrapuntal patterns and colours.

We moved to more familiar ground with Franz Schubert’s Four Impromptus of Op. 90, written in 1827.  These beautiful pieces were played expressively and imposingly, with a featherlight touch in the rapid passages and with great strength in the music’s big moments. Pallavi Mahidhara is a slender young woman but she generates great power at the keyboard.

The modern era was represented by three of Luciano Berio’s rather optimistically named Six Encores, written between 1965 and 1990.  This Italian composer (1925-2003) was known for his experimental work, with particular reference to electronic music.  His Encores are interesting but not really attractive for the ordinary listener.

Finally the pianist gave a demonstration of supreme virtuosity in Franz Liszt’s six Grand Etudes de Paganini, showpiece versions of compositions by Niccolo Paganini, the celebrated violin composer.  Two of these are well-known:  La Campanella (The Little Bell) and the last of the six, based on a Paganini Caprice that has been used for variations by, inter alia, Brahms and Rachmaninov.

Pallavi’s playing was thrilling to hear and to see, and the audience responded by giving her a standing ovation at the end.  

The prelude performer of the evening, supported by the National Lotteries Commission, was Tasmin Hastings, a 13-year-old violinist from Durban Girls’ College.  Accompanied at the piano by David Smith she played music by Tchaikovsky and Beethoven.

---Michael Green (courtesy of


21st August - Beth Shalom Concert

The annual Beth Shalom concert organised by the Friends of Music has become a highlight of the Durban music calendar, and this year’s event, at the Durban Jewish Centre, was no exception.

The concert has been staged for the past 10 years to raise funds for Beth Shalom (Abode of Peace), the Jewish retirement home on the Durban Berea.  This year, as in the past, it presented a Sunday afternoon programme of attractive light music, with a wide variety of items and of performers.  And, as before, it drew a big audience, about 600.

The concert opened with a dozen mainly African songs performed by the internationally acclaimed Kearsney College Choir.  The 30 boys involved sang (and drummed, clapped and stamped) with high skill and enthusiasm, and were warmly applauded by an appreciative audience.

Next came Sornia Kanfer, a 14-year-old soprano who is a pupil at Kuswag School in Amanzimtoti.  She has a lovely voice, but her use of a turned-up microphone and loudspeaker sometimes produced an uncomfortably loud sound.

We then moved to the nineteen twenties, thirties and sixties with five items from Platform Jazz, a Dixieland band well known in Durban and further afield.

They are a seven-piece ensemble ---trumpet, trombone, clarinet, saxophone, piano, double bass and percussion --- and two of them, Cathy Peacock (trumpet) and Andreas Kappen (double bass) are members of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra. 

Playing with zest and obvious enjoyment, they soon had  the not-so-young audience singing along in old favourites  such as Sweet Georgia Brown, Minnie the Moocher, and What a Wonderful World.

The light music theme continued after the interval.  The much-admired Siberian Trio – Boris Kerimov (cello), Elena Kerimova (violin) and Liezl-Maret Jacobs (piano) ---played pieces such as a Brahms Hungarian Dance, Saint Saens’s The Swan and Vittorio Monti’s Czardas.

Finally members of the KZNPO, conducted by Naum Rousine, presented an ample array of melodious and good-humoured light music from stage shows and other contemporary sources, with significant contributions from two popular Durban singers, Pinkie Mtshali and Frank Melman.

Everybody was happy.

---Michael Green (courtesy of


9th August - Sabine Baird (flute) and Ventura Rosenthal (harp)

The distinctly unusual combination of two performers playing a flute and a harp attracted a surprisingly big audience to the Durban Jewish Centre for the latest concert of the Friends of Music.

The audience included many people not usually seen at these concerts; maybe Durban has an unknown army of flute and harp aficionados. Whatever the background, they were treated to an evening of highly skilled and enjoyable playing from Sabine Baird and Ventura Rosenthal.

Sabine Baird played the flute in a German orchestra before she came to South Africa 24 years ago. She joined the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra in 2005 and is now principal flautist there.

Ventura Rosenthal was born in Romania, emigrated to Israel in 1972 and became a harpist in orchestras there. She moved to South Africa in 1977 and is now principal harpist with the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra.

The repertoire of music for a flute and harp duo is presumably not huge. The programme here featured ten composers, and I would guess that only two of them, Claude Debussy and the opera composer Gaetano Donizetti, were known to most members of the audience. However, the music was consistently pleasant and interesting, and the standard of performance was excellent.

We opened with a sonata by Francois de Boisvallee, a 20th century French composer known mainly for his film music. The sonata was in the classical manner of 200 years ago, three short movements with a Gallic elegance.

This was followed by opera-style pieces by Donizetti, including a harp solo, and then we had the German composer Nicolai von Wilm (1834-1911) and music by two Viennese virtuoso performers, Franz Doppler (flute) and Antonio Zamara (harp).

Appropriately, because our concert was on Women’s Day, the programme included a woman composer, Carmen Petra Basacopol from Romania. She was represented by her sonata for flute and harp, fairly modern in style but not aggressively so.

Debussy’s Syrinx, written in 1913, a pioneering piece for solo flute, was highly evocative (in Greek mythology Syrinx was a nymph who changed herself into a water reed to escape the amorous attentions of Pan).

The recital ended with a work by Josef Molnar, an Austrian who was born in 1929 and who has spent many years in Japan. It was called Fantasy on Themes of Japanese Folk Songs, not as forbidding as one might expect, with discernible melodies.

The prelude performer of the evening, supported by the National Lotteries Commission, was Casey Chiang of Durban, an experienced and accomplished young pianist. She played a Prelude and Fugue by Clara Schumann, wife of Robert Schumann, and a piece called Troubled Water by the 20th century American composer Margaret Bonds.

---Michael Green (courtesy of


2nd August - Capella Concertante

The Capella Concertante are a wind quintet from Austria, established 30 years ago. They have played in many parts of the world, including South Africa, but their recent concert for the Friends of Music, at the Durban Jewish Centre, was their first appearance in Durban.

They delighted the audience with a programme ranging from the eighteenth century to the twentieth.

Capella means “in the manner of the chapel” and refers to unaccompanied vocal music. Presumably the title was adopted here because only wind instruments are involved. For this concert, however, the quintet were reinforced by a string player, and more important, a singer.

The players were: Clemens Umbauer, flute; Magdalena Bauer, oboe; Mathias Kreischer, clarinet; Hubert Ecklbauer, horn; Markus Presenhuber, bassoon; and Anton Neulinger, double bass.

The singer was Johanna Dumfart, soprano, who was a dominant figure in the concert. She is a tall, statuesque young woman who comes from Linz in Austria, and she performed six melodious, dramatic and humorous songs of Austrian origins, from Mozart to Franz Lehar. She displayed a strong, accurate voice and a confident, attractive stage manner.

She added an extra dimension to the five wind instruments, as did, in a more subdued way, the string tones of Anton Neulinger’s double bass.

The wind players were all first-rate, showing their skills in 16 items that covered a wide range of moods and styles, from sources as diverse as Johann Strauss, the Argentinian Astor Piazzolla and the modern Austrian composer Jeno Takacs. The audience gave them a standing ovation at the end.

The prelude performer of the evening, supported by the National Lotteries Commission, was Sabastian Marimuthu, a violinist who shows great promise at the tender age of 11. He was accompanied at the piano by Dana Hadjiev.

---Michael Green (courtesy of


28th June - Christopher Duigan (piano), Junnan Sun (clarinet), Aristide du Plessis (cello)

A programme of top-class music by Beethoven, Brahms and Saint-Saens was presented by three locally based performers to a big and appreciative Friends of Music audience in the Durban Jewish Centre.

The players were:

Christopher Duigan, who lives in Pietermaritzburg and has over the past 15 years become one of South Africa’s leading pianists, giving about 70 concerts a year.

Junnan Sun, who was born in China, came to South Africa with his parents as a teenager, and is now, at the age of 26, principal clarinettist of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra.

Aristide du Plessis, who was born in Durban 27 years ago, was a pupil at Westville Boys’ High School, studied music in Cape Town and Zurich, Switzerland, and is now a member of the KZNPO.

Predictably, they formed impressive combinations in this chamber concert, playing with high technical skills and fine insight into the character of the compositions.

They began with Beethoven’s Trio in B flat major, Op. 11, which can be played with either a clarinet or a violin in one of the parts. It is a delightful work, written in 1797, light-hearted and brilliant, with a final theme and variations based on a song which was a popular hit in Vienna at the time.

It was played by our trio with great verve and with obvious enjoyment.

Aristide du Plessis joined Christopher Duigan in the finest of Beethoven’s five cello sonatas, Op. 69 in A major.

Again, the performance was committed, thoughtful and skilful, with excellent tonal balance between the players.

We moved to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries with Brahms’s Clarinet Trio, Op. 114, written in 1891, and Saint-Saens’s Clarinet Sonata Op. 167, which dates from 1921, the year of the composer’s death.

The Brahms is typical of his late period: calm, reflective, slightly melancholy at times but with flashes of virtuoso brilliance.

The clarinet, queen of the woodwind instruments, has a major role here, and Junnan Sun played it beautifully, especially in the slow movement.

Duigan and Du Plessis were in no way overshadowed in a lovely performance of a work not often heard here.

The Saint-Saens sonata was tuneful, polished and remarkably youthful, considering that the composer was 86 when he wrote it.

Beethoven, Brahms and Saint-Saens were all pianists, and the piano is the essential partner in all these works. Christopher Duigan handled the widely varying demands of these composers with high ability and great confidence.

Over the years he has earned a big reputation with consistent performances that convey the intentions of the composer rather than the ego of the player, and that sense of dedication was always apparent in this concert.

Incidentally, Aristide du Plessis appeared at a Friends of Music concert about 10 years ago as a “prelude performer”, the opportunity given to promising young players. He took cello lessons with Boris Kerimov, principal cellist of the KZNPO, who was present this time to hear his protégé, now his colleague.

The prelude performer at this concert (supported by the National Lotteries Commission) was Kirsten Moody, a matric pupil at Wykeham Collegiate, Pietermaritzburg. Accompanied at the piano by her teacher, Rita Deysel, she played a flute sonata by the twentieth century French composer Francis Poulenc.

---Michael Green (courtesy of


14th June - Rachel Lee Priday (violin) and Bryan Wallick (piano)

Two distinguished performers gave the Friends of Music an evening of great pleasure when, at the Durban Jewish Centre, they presented a connoisseur’s programme of music for violin and piano.

The players were two Americans, Rachel Lee Priday and  Bryan Wallick.  She was born in Chicago and has a Korean background, he developed his career in the United States and  now lives in Johannesburg.

He is well known in Durban as a pianist. She had created something of a sensation a few days earlier when she played a Paganini violin concerto with the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra.

This time she turned her attention to less spectacular but far superior music.  Beethoven’s ten violin sonatas and Brahms’s three are not played in Durban as often as they should be.  The omission was remedied by Lee Priday and Wallick with beautiful performances of Brahms’s third, in A major, Op. 100, and Beethoven’s seventh, in C minor, Op. 30 No. 2.

Perhaps it should be emphasised again that in music of this kind the pianist is not an accompanist but an equal partner, as was absolutely clear throughout this programme.  Wallick’s powerful and expressive playing matched that of Lee Priday, and they performed with a totally unaffected and intensely concentrated stage demeanour.

They captured the mood of the Brahms work, lyrical, melodious, with underlying strength, and the various moods of the Beethoven, from menacing drama to off-beat  humour.

Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 1 in F minor, written in 1946, offered a strong contrast, a lengthy composition, mainly  sombre, sometimes gentle, sometimes rough.  It was played with great authority and power, with Lee Priday displaying her ability to produce a tone that is never harsh but always penetrating.

Finally we were given a pop piece, the Zigeunerweisen (Gypsy tunes) by the nineteenth century Spanish violin virtuoso Pablo de Sarasate. It brought the concert to a brilliant end, and the audience gave the players a standing ovation.

The prelude performers of the evening, supported by the National Lotteries Commission, were the Northlands Girls’ High School Vocal Ensemble, a well-trained group of nine singers.

---Michael Green (courtesy of


3rd May - Alexander Ramm (cello), Pieter Jacobs (piano)

Two outstanding instrumentalists, a Russian and a South African, provided an evening of much pleasure when they played for the Friends of Music at the Durban Jewish Centre.

Alexander Ramm was born in Vladivostock 28 years ago and educated in Moscow. In just a few years he has established a reputation in Europe as a cellist of the first rank.

Pieter Jacobs, who teaches at Pretoria University, has long been recognised as one of South Africa’s best pianists (he has played in Durban many times). He is a kind of intellectual all-rounder; he has a doctorate in music (from Yale University in the United States) and a doctorate in electronic engineering.

These two gifted players presented a programme of consistently interesting and enjoyable music, most of it off the beaten track.

They opened with the cello sonata in A minor, Op. 35, by Norway’s Edvard Grieg (1843-1907). Grieg is a rather underrated composer, in my view, and this sonata must come as an eye-opener to those who think of him as a minor composer of tuneful miniatures. It is a big, vigorous, passionate work, skilfully laid out for both instruments, with both of them equal partners.

Alexander Ramm and Pieter Jacobs gave a forceful, virtuoso performance of this fine work. Ramm produced a beautiful broad tone in the lyrical passages, and Jacobs handled the difficult piano part with great vigour and confidence. The tonal balance of the two instruments was very good at all times.

Claude Debussy’s D minor cello sonata, dating from 1915, brought forth another well-judged performance. This is another fine and subtle composition, very French and very brief; it runs for just over 10 minutes.

A sonata in C minor by the American composer Samuel Barber was probably unknown to most members of the audience. It turned out to be an attractive and accessible works, full of contrasts and surprises.

Finally the duo gave a brilliant presentation of Astor Piazzolla’s Le Grand Tango. Piazzolla (1921-1992) was the Argentine king of the tango, and in this big piece he combined traditional tango rhythms with touches of jazz and some modern harmonies. A totally stylish performance was acknowledged with enthusiastic applause from the audience.

Alexander Ramm gave an unaccompanied encore, an irresistible cello showpiece by the twentieth century Spanish composer Gaspard Cassado.

The prelude performer of the evening, supported by the National Lotteries Commission, was Rashalia Pather, a Durban pianist who completed her B.Mus. degree last year. She gave creditable performances in an ambitious choice of music: the first movement of Beethoven’s Sonata in D minor, Op. 31 No. 2, and Debussy’s L’Isle Joyeuse, written in 1904 after the composer had visited the island of Jersey.

---Michael Green (courtesy of


19th April - Siberian Trio

Three highly accomplished Durban musicians presented a programme of top-class music in the latest concert of the Friends of Music in the Durban Jewish Centre.

The players were Boris Kerimov, cello, Elena Kerimova, violin, and Liezl-Maret Jacobs, piano. They have often performed here before, and they used to give themselves the rather ordinary title Group of Three. This has now been changed to the rather chilly Siberian Trio, this because the Kerimovs, husband and wife, come from Novosibirsk, in Siberia.

This city, the third largest in Russia, is, however, in the mild southern part of Siberia, far from the icy wastes of the north, and certainly there is nothing cold about the playing of this trio.

Boris and Elena Kerimov have been members of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra for the past 17 years. Liezl Jacobs is well known as a soloist, chamber music player and teacher.

Boris and Liezl opened the programme with Robert Schumann’s Three Fantasy Pieces, Op. 73, attractive and distinctive music that is not very often played in public.

They followed with the second of Brahms’s two cello sonatas, that in F major, Op. 99. This work, which dates from 1886, is rather dense in structure but there is plenty of romantic melody and the piano part is powerful, brilliant and difficult. Both players produced an excellent interpretation of music that was probably unfamiliar to most members of the audience.

The high point of the evening was Beethoven’s Archduke Trio, one of the crown jewels of chamber music. This trio (Op. 97) was written in 1811 and dedicated to Archduke Rudolph, younger brother of the emperor of Austria. The archduke gave Beethoven financial assistance and had a few piano lessons from him. His generosity was rewarded with a dedication that has preserved his name in history.

Elena Kerimova joined the other two players for this performance and made her own significant contribution in the lovely role allocated to the violin. The melodies in this Archduke Trio are noble and unforgettable, and Beethoven gives equal status to all three players.

A splendid and eloquent performance was acknowledged with prolonged applause at the end, and the players gave an encore, Aram Khachaturian’s Sabre Dance.

The prelude performer of the evening, supported by the National Lotteries Commission, was Sornia Kanfer, a 13-year-old soprano from Kuswag School in Amanzimtoti. She sang, unaccompanied, three lengthy songs by popular composers.

She obviously has a voice of good quality and high promise, but her use of a microphone produced deafening results. I think microphones should be banned when young singers are displaying their talents.

---Michael Green (courtesy of


5th April - Miki Aoki, piano

A slender, good-looking young Japanese pianist created high enthusiasm when she played for a Friends of Music audience at the Durban Jewish Centre.

Miki Aoki started playing the piano at the age of four and was 12 when she made her debut at London’s Royal Festival Hall. She had her musical education in the United States and Germany. She is now based in Austria and is building an international career as a soloist and chamber musician.

The first half of her Durban programme was dedicated entirely to twentieth century French composers --- Darius Milhaud, Erik Satie, Francis Poulenc and Arthur Honneger. The music of all of them is unfailingly elegant, graceful, witty, polished, at times poignant, in a word, French.

Miki Aoki captured exactly the mood of this lovely music, making light of its rather formidable technical problems and conveying the air of Gallic virtuosity. Milhaud was represented by a jazzy, catchy piece derived from the two years he spent in Brazil; Satie by one of his famous Gymnopedies, lean and mysterious; Honneger by a piece called Souvenir de Chopin; and Poulenc by various compositions, including a memorable item called Melancolie, written in 1940 during Nazi Germany’s occupation of France.

After the interval we had The Lark, a beautiful song by the Russian composer Mikhail Glinka (1804-1857), arranged for piano by Mily Balakirev (1837-1910). Then we moved to more familiar ground with one of Schubert’s Impromptus, Chopin’s famous Etude Op. 10 No 3, and the first of his four Ballades.

Here the pianist demonstrated that, in addition to the delicacy shown earlier, she was capable of playing with great power and technical prowess of the highest order.

The audience gave her a standing ovation, and in response she gave an encore, a kind of jazzed up version of George Gershwin’s Summertime.

The prelude performer of the evening, supported by the National Lotteries Commission, was a 17 year-old soprano, Simesihle Nothando Nkosi, who is a matric student at Eden College. She was accompanied at the piano by her teacher, Amina Carini, and, in one of her four songs, by a fellow student, Tazlo Luke Jacobs.

---Michael Green (courtesy of


15th March - David Salleras - saxophone and Christopher Duigan - piano

The saxophone, invented by Adolphe Saxe, a Belgian, in 1840, is still, I think, regarded mainly as a jazz or military band instrument, but it has a fairly small but impressive classical repertoire, including works by Debussy and Glazunov.

For the latest Friends of Music concert in the Durban Jewish Centre two gifted musicians, David Salleras, saxophone, and Christopher Duigan, piano, showed what can be achieved with this rather unusual combination.

David Salleras is a Spaniard and one of the best saxophonists in the world. Christopher Duigan is very well-known locally and further afield. He lives in Pietermaritzburg, and he is one of the most accomplished, enterprising and energetic pianists in South Africa.

The programme consisted entirely of twentieth century music, much of it by Christopher Duigan himself, with one big piece by David Salleras.

Duigan’s compositions for saxophone and piano are imaginative, not too serious but not trivial either. In this concert they included three items from the whimsically entitled Six Pint Sized Pieces: The First Round, Drowning Your Sorrows and Bar-Stool Tango.

Other works by Duigan were Conversations, two of his four Nocturnes, and one of his Four KZN Landscapes, this one depicting Himeville.

These were all highly effective works in a fairly traditional style, with some virtuoso scoring for both instruments (Duigan has had a long musical association with Salleras, and he obviously has a total understanding of the capabilities of the saxophone).

Salleras’s compositional contribution was a brilliant Caprice in F minor for solo saxophone, with rapid arpeggios and the use of a difficult technique called circular breathing, which virtually eliminates breathing breaks by the player.

The rest of the programme was made up of music by the Spanish saxophonist Pedro Iturralde; the Italian composer of much film music Ennis Morricone; the Frenchman Christian Lauba; and the Argentine king of the tango Astor Piazzolla.

An enthusiastic audience gave the players a standing ovation at the end.

The prelude performer of the evening, funded by the National Lotteries Commission, was a remarkable 13-year-old singer, Lasandra Majola. Assisted at times by four comedians she sang popular music with poise and confidence. The recorded accompaniment and her own voice were amplified to a deafening pitch, making it difficult to assess her vocal qualities. But she is obviously a talented young person, and no doubt she will go far.

---Michael Green (courtesy of


8th March - Charl du Plessis - piano

A piano programme ranging from Johann Sebastian Bach to George Gershwin attracted a large audience to the Durban Jewish Centre for the latest Friends of Music concert, and they were rewarded with an evening of exciting and highly enjoyable music.
The pianist was Charl du Plessis of Pretoria, making what was apparently his first concert appearance in Durban. He is a young man who is a gifted musician;  he is building a big reputation in the concert hall and he teaches at the University of Pretoria.

As a player he is nothing if not versatile. He opened his programme with the celebrated Chaconne in D minor, written by Bach in 1720 for the solo violin and transcribed for the piano in 1893 by Ferruccio Busoni.  A chaconne is a composition rooted in an old Spanish dance and consisting of variations over a constant bass.  Busoni’s keyboard transcription of Bach is a massive work bristling with technical difficulties, all of them handled with calm skill by Charl du Plessis, an imposing and powerful performance.

Music by Frederic Chopin followed, one of his longest and best works, the Fantasy in F minor, Op. 49, and the two Waltzes of Op. 64.  These were played with insight and elegance, particularly the poetic C sharp minor Waltz of Op. 64, a work with timeless grace and charm. 

It was, however, a collection of pieces by George Gershwin that stirred the audience to great enthusiasm.  Du Plessis played the well-known Three Preludes for Piano. Then came his own arrangements of three famous songs, The Man I love, Summertime and I Got Rhythm, and, finally, Rhapsody in Blue, arranged for piano by Gershwin with a helping hand from Charl du Plessis.

The pianist gave virtuoso performances of this irresistible music,  especially in his playing of I Got Rhythm, and the audience gave him a standing ovation at the end.
The recital was spiced with relevant comments by Charl du Plessis himself, including the information that he had donned his vivid blue jacket to play Rhapsody in Blue.  A most engaging and humorous personality.

The prelude performer of the evening, funded by the National Lotteries Commission, was Joshua Stapleton, a 16-year-old pianist from Ballito who played music by Clementi and Grieg.

---Michael Green (courtesy of


23rd February - Duo - Zappa Mainolfi

Two accomplished performers and a well-chosen programme attracted a big audience to the Durban Jewish Centre for the latest concert of the Friends of Music.
The players were Mattia Zappa (cello) and Massimiliano Mainolfi (piano), who are on their sixth visit to South Africa and who played in Durban some years ago.

Zappa is from Switzerland, Mainolfi from Italy. They formed their duo partnership 21 years ago when they were studying at the Juilliard music school in New York. Since then they have established an international reputation, and it is easy to see and hear why. They are skilful, thoughtful, sympathetic performers, with a mutual understanding formed by their long years of association.

As it happened, Zappa was the dominant partner in the programme of nineteenth and twentieth century music. Mainolfi is a first-rate pianist with an immaculate technique and strong interpretative insights, but it was Zappa’s golden cello tone that caught the ear throughout the concert.

They opened with Sergei Prokofiev’s cello sonata Op. 119, written in 1949. With a melodious and sometimes lyrical character, this is much more accessible and interesting than some modern music, and the audience obviously enjoyed it.
This was followed by the Rondo in G minor Op. 94 by Antonin Dvorak, an expressive and original work by the great Czech composer.

The main item of the evening was Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata, written in 1824 for a strange instrument called the arpeggione, a sort of cross between a guitar and a cello. The arpeggione soon became obsolete, but Schubert’s work has survived triumphantly in an arrangement for cello and piano. It is prime Schubert, with a wonderful flow of melody, and the players and audience revelled in this eloquent performance.

The programme ended with a relatively little known work by Tchaikovsky, his Pezzo Capriccioso (literally Capricious Piece); attractive, brilliant and a little sad, typical Tchaikovsky.

In response to prolonged applause, the duo gave an encore, Debussy’s Girl with the Flaxen Hair, from his first book of piano preludes.

The prelude performer of the evening, supported by the National Lotteries Commission, was a guitarist, 19-year-old Arianna Carini, a Durban girl who is now a second year music student at the University of Cape Town. She played pieces by Manuel de Falla and the Paraguayan guitarist Agustin Barrios and Stanley Myers’s Cavatina from the film The Deer Hunter, and she displayed confidence, a calm demeanour, and considerable technical skills.

---Michael Green (courtesy of


26th January - Sarita Uranovsky, violin, and Andrew Campbell, piano

Modern music by an Armenian, an Estonian and a Turk proved to be an effective audience deterrent when the Friends of Music presented their second concert of the year, at the Durban Jewish Centre.
The performers were a violin and piano duo from the United States. The attendance was less than a third of the number who came to the same venue a week earlier to hear another duo play Mozart and Beethoven. And on this second occasion a substantial number of the listeners left at the interval.

The players were Sarita Uranovsky, violin, who was born in Cape Town and now lives in Boston, and Andrew Campbell, piano, another American. Both are distinguished music academics, and perhaps it was a desire to teach the people that influenced their choice of programme. The five items were all from the twentieth and twenty-first century, and with the exception of works by Debussy and Ravel they were unknown territory to the Durban audience.

Arno Babajanian (1921-1983), the Armenian, was represented by his violin sonata in B flat minor, written in 1959. This turned out to be a strongly rhythmical, noisy work, difficult to play and difficult to listen to.

In quieter mood was a Passacaglia by the Estonian composer Arvo Part (b. 1935). This was a modern (2003) version of an old Italian music form, usually variations with a repetitive bass accompaniment Rather an attractive piece.

Ahmed Adnan Saygum (1907-1991) provided the Turkish component in the programme with a four-movement suite written in 1955. This is apparently based largely on Turkish folk dances. Impressive and interesting, but the audience wouldn’t have gone home humming the tunes.

The playing, as far as one could judge, was first-rate throughout, and it was certainly so in the two more familiar items on the programme, Debussy’s 1916 Sonata, one of his last works, and Ravel’s gypsy piece Tzigane, written in 1924.

The prelude performer of the evening, supported by the National Lotteries Commission, was Leia Poona, a 14-year-old violinist who is a pupil of Hristo Kardjiev, former leader of the KZNPO. Accompanied at the piano by Bobby Mills, she played a piece by the celebrated Jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli and the famous Dark Eyes by Adalgiso Ferraris. She showed technical ability and a sense of style beyond her years. A most promising player.

---Michael Green (courtesy of


19th January - Raskin and Fleischmann

For their first concert of the year the Friends of Music presented, at the Durban Jewish Centre, two accomplished performers in a programme of outstanding music that was much appreciated by a big audience.

Philippe Raskin, a 33-year-old Belgian pianist, and Johannes Fleischmann, a 32-year-old Austrian violinist, formed their duo partnership six years ago, and since then have achieved significant international success, including a visit to South Africa in 2011.

They opened their Durban programme with one of the finest of Mozart’s 16 mature violin sonatas, the two-movement work in E minor, K. 304. This dates from 1778, when the composer was 22, and it is an extraordinary combination of vigour and sorrow, the sadness probably caused by the then recent death of Mozart’s mother.

The bold opening phrases immediately established the authority and insight of the players, and the entire work was played with great strength and, where required, delicacy.
As one would expect, there was complete understanding between the performers, with well-judged tonal balance.

This was followed by a great favourite, Beethoven’s Spring Sonata in F major, Op. 24. Beethoven didn’t give the work that name, but it is entirely appropriate; the music has an enchanting freshness and zest. This spirit was admirably captured by the players, who were rewarded with prolonged applause at the end.

The programme ended in less familiar territory with Richard Strauss’s Sonata in E flat, Op. 18. Strauss is of course best known for his big orchestral tone poems. This sonata, completed in 1888 when he was 24, shows his great gifts in the very different field of chamber music. It was written at a time when the composer had fallen in love with a soprano named Pauline de Ahna, whom he later married. It is a romantic, melodious work, with a particularly beautiful slow movement.

Raskin and Fleischmann extracted full value from it, giving great pleasure to the audience, many of whom were probably hearing this music for the first time. The players brought a highly successful recital to a close with an improvised, or semi-improvised, encore.

The prelude performer of the evening , supported by the National Lotteries Commission, was Tumelo Zondi, a 17-year-old soprano who has just matriculated from Eden College, Durban.
Accompanied at the piano by her teacher, Amina Carini, she showed an accurate, full-toned voice and a good stage presence in songs by Handel, Giovanni Paisiello (this item best known for Beethoven’s piano variations on it), Massenet, Hugo Wolf and Michael Head.

---Michael Green (courtesy of