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Thursday, December 2, 2010


Unusual and outstanding concert from Friends of Music. (Review by Michael Green)

This was an unusual and outstanding concert presented by ten gifted musicians before a large and appreciative audience at the Durban Jewish Centre.

The players are all members of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra. Apparently it was the chairman of the Friends of Music, Dr Vera Dubin, who suggested that they join forces to play Beethoven’s Septet Op. 20, a work that was very popular 200 years ago but has lost currency to some extent in the age of big orchestras, celebrity soloists, television, film and radio. To the septet they added another rather rarely played work, Tchaikovsky’s string sextet called Souvenir de Florence.

The outcome was a resounding success. The Beethoven Septet is written for string quartet, clarinet, bassoon and horn. It is a six-movement, 40-minute work that is light-hearted and full of good tunes, with plenty of opportunity for the players to demonstrate their individual skills.

This they did in convincing fashion. The starring role was undoubtedly that of the violinist Elena Kerimov, who played with a consistently accurate and full tone and with a vigour and energy that exactly suited the mood of the music. Her husband, the cellist Boris Kerimov, also caught the ear and the eye, especially in the beautiful cello melody in the fifth movement. Sorin Mircea Osorhean, horn, made the most of the often brilliant and humorous interventions assigned to his instrument. The other players were David Snaith (viola), Ian Holloway (clarinet) and Vessela Minkova (bassoon). The rapport among the performers was excellent, with immaculate timing and well-judged balance of tone. And they all seemed to derive much enjoyment from playing the work.

Incidentally, if the theme of the third movement seemed familiar to many listeners it was because Beethoven used the same tune in a piano sonata, Op. 49 No 2, that is known to almost everybody who has learned the piano.

Tchaikovsky’s String Sextet in D, Op. 70, was named Souvenir de Florence by the composer because he spent a very happy time in that beautiful city. The first movement is so vigorous as to be almost violent, but then the music calms down, and the second movement has a blissful melody that is unmistakably Tchaikovsky. A fine work, and it was very well played by Elena Kerimova and Geza Kayser (violins), David Snaith and Annamaria D’Andrea (violas) and Boris Kerimov and Ralitsa Todorova (cellos).

All the 10 players in the concert are imports who have come here to play in the KZNPO. Three are from England, two from Russia, two from Bulgaria, one from Italy, one from Austria and one from Romania. The concert was, among other things, evidence of the enormous contribution made by musicians from Europe to our musical life in South Africa.

The Prelude Performer of the evening, funded by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, was Ndumiso Nyoka, a young tenor of talent and great promise. Accompanied by Dana Hadjiev at the piano, he sang three well-chosen songs by Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti. He sang expressively, with accurate phrasing, and he showed a good sense of style. - Michael Green