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Thursday, May 19, 2011


(Andrey Baranov)

Two young Russian musicians, brother and sister, perform a splendid evening of music (Review by Michael Green)

Two young Russian musicians, brother and sister, gave a violin and piano recital of very high quality when they played for the Friends of Music at the Durban Jewish Centre, presenting a programme that was sometimes inspirational, sometimes cheerfully entertaining.

Andrey Baranov (violin) was born in Leningrad/St Petersburg 25 years ago and his sister Maria Baranova (piano) was born there two years later. They both displayed technical skills and interpretative insights that were quite remarkable in such young performers.

From a purely musical point of view, the high point came right at the beginning with Andrey Baranov’s playing of the Chaconne from Bach’s Partita in D minor, which was written about 1720. This is a work for solo, unaccompanied violin, and the Chaconne, variation treatment on a repetitive bass line, is one of Bach’s most profound and celebrated compositions. About 150 years later Brahms wrote: “For a small instrument, the man writes a whole world of the deepest thoughts and most powerful feelings”.

The Chaconne is a formidable intellectual and physical challenge for the performer, and Andrey Baranova showed a masterly technique and a firm grasp of the structure of the music. I suspect that quite a large number of the good-sized audience had never heard this work before, but they listened with rapt attention and rewarded the performer with prolonged applause at the end.

Maria Baranova joined her brother for the rest of the programme, starting with Beethoven’s Sonata Op 12, No. 3, written in 1797 and one of the best of the master’s 10 sonatas for violin and piano. Both instruments are equal partners in these sonatas, and Maria revelled in the brilliant piano part of this one. The noble slow movement brought forth a lovely tone from Andrey, playing a Guarneri violin made in 1682.

After this, the programme had a lighter flavour. Tchaikovsky’s Waltz Op. 34 is elegant, swift, difficult, and it was performed with great panache. Then came something completely different, Vice by the South African composer Matthijs van Dijk, a piece as abrasive and cryptic as its title.

Henryk Wieniawski’s Fantasia from Gounod’s Faust is a typical 19th century extravaganza by a Polish violinist whose main purpose in composing was to show off his own skills. The performance was brilliant, and it was acknowledged with foot-stamping and whistles from the delighted audience.

Finally, we went to familiar ground with Fragments from Porgy and Bess, by the famous violinist Jascha Heifetz. These are arrangements of songs from George Gershwin’s opera, and in this form they are most effective: emotional, romantic, sentimental. The songs transcribed by Heifetz are: My man’s gone now, “There’s a boat that’s leaving soon for New York, Bess you is my woman, Summertime, A woman is a sometime thing, and It ain’t necessarily so.

A lovely end to a splendid evening of music. - Michael Green