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20 June 2017 - Baroqueswing

The Friends of Music offered something very unusual for their latest concert at the Durban Jewish Centre:  jazzed up versions of familiar classical melodies. 

The title was Baroqueswing and the performers were the Charl du Plessis Trio, consisting of Charl du Plessis, a well-known classical and jazz pianist, Werner Spies (double bass) and Hugo Radyn (drums).

Their programme was mainly 18th century baroque music brought up to date, so to speak.  It included Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring, and Double Violin Concerto;  Gluck’s Melodie from his opera Orfeo ed Euridice;  Handel (Messiah); and Albinoni (Adagio).

A small audience seemed to have mixed feelings about all this.  Some were enthusiastic. Others complained that the music was too loud.

There was no doubting the skills of the leader, Charl du Plessis;  he is a virtuoso keyboardist, to use the terminology of this environment. And Werner Spies produced good sounds from an extraordinary instrument, a kind of double bass cut in half and attached to wires.  

The jazz arrangements composed by Charl du Plessis were certainly ingenious and, well, swinging, and they were obviously enjoyed by most listeners. I suppose that a classical purist might regard some of these items as a travesty verging on sacrilege.

My own feeling is that they were certainly interesting and catchy but marred by excessive volume. The Gluck, Albinoni and Bach’s Jesu are meant to be played softly, not fortissimo.  

The most successful pieces on the programme were, I thought, two authentically jazz compositions by contemporary American composers, Jeff Hamilton and Chick  Corea.  And George Gershwin’s I Got Rhythm, played as an encore.

The prelude performer of the evening, supported by the National Lotteries Commission, was a 15-year-old cellist, Morgan Oakley.  She displayed an accurate tone, a poise and technical skills that were remarkable in one so young.

---Michael Green (courtesy of Artsmart.co.za)