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Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Friends of Music present outstanding performers in an evening to remember. (Review by Michael Green)

Friends of Music presented a concert by violinist Daniel Rowland and pianist Pieter Jacobs.

Two outstanding performers made this an evening to remember. Daniel Rowland is a 36-year-old violinist who was born in London, grew up in the Netherlands, and has performed in many parts of the world. Pieter Jacobs comes from Pretoria and has established a reputation as one of the most accomplished of young South African pianists.

These two gifted player presented, at the Durban Jewish Centre, a programme of music well off the beaten track. They are both strong, confident instrumentalists, virtuosos who obviously enjoy the challenges before them. And in this respect they were equal partners, with Pieter Jacobs’s big keyboard technique commanding almost as much attention as Daniel Rowland’s wonderfully fluent violin.

Their opening number, Mozart’s two-movement Sonata in E minor, K. 304, was for me the most enjoyable music of the evening, a lovely, elegant but tense work. The E major episode in the minuet (the second movement) is as poignant as anything Mozart ever wrote, and it was beautifully played by these performers. Truly, music to bring a tear to the eye.

Richard Strauss’s Sonata in E flat Op 18 is a youthful work, dating from 1888, and an imposing one of concerto-like dimensions, looking forward in many ways to the later tone poems on which this composer’s reputation mainly rests. Again, the performance of this long and taxing work could hardly be faulted.

Karol Szymanowsky, a Pole, is, as Daniel Rowland observed in his informal commentary between musical items, an underrated composer. He died of tuberculosis in 1937 at the age of 54. His Fountain of Arethusa is a highly original, ethereal kind of piece inspired by the Greek myth about Arethusa, the nymph who was transformed into a spring.

It was good to hear unfamiliar music so expertly played, and the same could be said of Francis Poulenc’s Sonata, written in 1943. The music is typical of Poulenc: acerbic, abrasive passages alternating with snatches of sweet, sentimental music in the vein of French popular music. Most enjoyable.

Saint-Saens’s well-known Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso brought the recital to a glittering conclusion, with the violinist in particular displaying a full range of virtuoso heroics and earning an ovation from the audience.

The evening’s prelude performers, funded by the National Lottery, were two jazz players who did not look particularly young or disadvantaged. The trumpeter Daniel Sheldon has a Dip jazz degree, teaches jazz at the University of KwaZulu/Natal and is a band leader. The guitarist Gerald Sloan was described in the programme as “a giant name in local jazz and a legend in his own right”. They played some attractive music in the ruminative and introspective manner of much modern jazz. It made an interesting change from promising child violinists. - Michael Green