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Friday, June 12, 2009


Liesl Stoltz, Albie van Schalkwyk and Anmari van der Westhuizen present excellent playing in an interesting selection of works. (Review by Michael Green)

A programme of mainly modern and mainly unfamiliar chamber music did not, predictably enough, draw a huge audience to the Durban Jewish Centre for this Friends of Music concert, but those who attended were rewarded with some excellent playing in an interesting selection of works.

The three players were all experienced performers with distinguished records in the grove of Academe and in the concert hall. They were Liesl Stoltz, who plays the flute and teaches at the University of Cape Town and who over the past decade has performed with distinction in South Africa and Europe; Albie van Schalkwyk, a pianist who over the past 30 years has specialised in chamber music and who is now a professor at UCT, after a long time at the University of the Free State; and Anmari van der Westhuizen, a cellist who is a Stellenbosch University graduate, made her overseas debut in 1990 in Salzburg, lived in Austria for eight years, and now teaches at the University of the Free State.

The programme opened with Prokofiev’s Sonata for flute and piano, Op. 94, first performed in 1943 in Moscow and later transcribed by the composer for violin and piano. The sonata was written at a bad time for Russia - Hitler’s armies had invaded the country - but it is vigorous and positive, with plenty of melodic appeal. You wouldn’t go home whistling the tunes, but they are there, especially for the flute. There are also plenty of dissonances, but the music as a whole is accessible to the listener.

The playing was excellent. Liesl Stoltz is a brilliant and accurate flautist and at the piano Albie van Schalkwyk was a model of skill and discretion. It would be easy for the keyboard player to overpower the flute, but this he never did. A subtle and delightful performance.

The same sense of ensemble and understanding was clear in Weber’s Trio for flute, piano and cello, Op. 63. Carl Maria von Weber, who died of tuberculosis in 1826 at the age of 39, wrote much attractive music, and this trio is a good example of the German romantic style of two hundred years ago. Anmari van der Westhuizen joined the pianist and the flautist, and her cello contributed a splendidly rich dimension to the entire work. She is an artist of the first rank and this music seemed particularly well suited to her broad, resonant tone, especially in the lower register.

The programme was completed with Debussy’s 12-minute Sonata for cello and piano, written in 1915 when the composer was dying of cancer and was greatly depressed by the first world war; and the Trio for flute, cello and piano by Bohuslav Martinu (1890-1959), the prolific Czech composer (about 400 works) who lived in the United States for many years and wrote this trio there in 1944.

The Prelude Performer of the evening, funded by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, was yet another gifted violinist with eastern origins: 14-year-old Yea Kyung Kim, a pupil at Durban Girls’ College. Accompanied at the piano by David Smith, she played two lovely violin arrangements by Fritz Kreisler: the delectable (and long and taxing) Rondo from Mozart’s Haffner Serenade and the beautiful and much-admired Melodie from Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice.

This young violinist has a skill beyond her years, and it is easy to understand why her teacher, Isaac Melamed, has a high opinion of her. - Michael Green