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Thursday, August 9, 2012


(Géza Kayser, David Smith and Liuben Gardev)

Impressive programme of very serious trio music. (Review by Michael Green)

Three’s Company was the somewhat jaunty title given to a programme of very serious trio music at the latest Friends of Music concert at the Durban Jewish Centre.

The performers were David Smith (piano and harpsichord), who is professor of opera at the University of KZN; Geza Kayser (violin), a member of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra; and Liuben Gadev (cello), also a member of the KZNPO. They are all accomplished players, and they presented a programme well off the beaten track: two works from the early 18th century, two from the mid-20th century.

They opened with a sonata for violin and harpsichord by the Italian composer Corelli (1653-1713), whose parents optimistically gave him the first name Arcangelo, archangel.

This was a delightful composition, elegant and melodious, but not really comparable with the next item, J.S. Bach’s Sonata No. 5 in F minor for violin and harpsichord. This sonata, one of a set of six written about 1720, is not a particularly well-known work, but Johann Sebastian’s great genius makes it fascinating, eloquent and memorable from start to finish. This beautiful music was played with great skill and style, with the cellist joining the violinist and harpsichordist in this performance.

After the interval came the contrast, the Trio No. 1 (also called Five Short Pieces) by the Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu (1890-1959). This vigorous, strongly rhythmical and sometimes rather abrasive music appears to be rooted in Bohemian folk music. It was played with power and conviction, and David Smith, at the piano this time, was outstanding in articulating the complex and difficult keyboard part.

Finally, we had another dominant figure in Dmitri Shostakovich. His Piano Trio No.2, Op. 67 was written during the Second World War and reflects the tension and tragedy of the time. It is compelling music, especially the slow movement and the finale, which has clear references to Jewish folk music, and the players were in fine form throughout.

The Prelude Performers of the evening, funded by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, were the 15 members of the Durban Girls’ College Orchestra, 11 strings, three woodwind and a pianist. Trained and conducted by Ted Brien they played pieces by Brahms, Bartok and Albeniz with enthusiasm and talent. It is good to know that, at some of our schools, anyway, the arts of music are being cultivated and developed. - Michael Green