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Saturday, September 29, 2012


(Roelof Temmingh)

Astonishing display of virtuoso playing forms highlight of annual festival. (Review by Michael Green)

An astonishing display of virtuoso piano playing by a 15-year-old boy from Stellenbosch was without question the highlight of the National Youth Concerto Festival presented by unusually talented young performers with the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra in the Durban City Hall.

Roelof Willem Temmingh is a grade 10 pupil at the Paul Roos Gymnasium school, Stellenbosch. He is a member of a distinguished South Africa musical family who have their roots in Holland and is a nephew of Lykele Temmingh, the KZNPO’s resident conductor.

Lykele Temmingh has for many years been in involved with the encouragement and development of young musicians, and, after country-wide auditions, he chose the nine performers who appeared in this concert, which he conducted.

Roelof Temmingh, a tall, slender lad looking no older than his 15 years, played the third movement of Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3, one of the most difficult pieces in the repertory, written by the composer about 90 years ago to demonstrate his own prowess at the keyboard. Roelof created a sensation as he delivered Prokofiev’s brilliant score, full of rapid runs and octaves, with a kind of calm power, and with a perceptive musical insight.

Here surely is a big name for the future. Certainly the audience thought so, judging by the ovation they gave him at the end.

This annual Youth Concerto Festival is always an enjoyable occasion, and this most recent presentation, featuring performers aged 15 to about 25, was no exception. It is not, of course, a symphony concert in the ordinary sense of the term. It is more a melange of movements from concertos, plus some vocal items. As such, it is a very pleasant opportunity to spot the musical talent that is blossoming in South Africa.

The programme opened with the first movement of Rachmaninov’s well-loved Piano Concerto No. 2, played by Mark Spence, a final year B.Mus. student in Cape Town. He gave an accomplished and rather restrained performance. Nineteen-year-old Dylan Barker from Port Elizabeth is a horn player of exceptional ability, as he showed in an excerpt from Richard Strauss’s Horn Concerto No. 1. He has an impressive mastery of this difficult instrument, with a big tone and trouble-free negotiation of the fast passages.

Kwakhanya Mavuka, tenor, born in East London, and Sandile Samuel Sikhosana, baritone, born in Ladysmith, KZN, proved popular with the audience as they sang a duet from Bizet’s Pearl Fishers. And the audience greatly enjoyed a saxophone composition, Fantaisie Brillante on melodies from Carmen, by Francois Borne (1840-1920). The highly competent saxophonist was Abraham Mennen.

The marimba is a rarity on our concert platforms. It is a kind of xylophone, with wooden bars that are struck with mallets and, below them, metal tubes called resonators. The result is a rich, mellow sound, as was expertly demonstrated by Nidhi Gangan in a Concerto for Marimba by Jorge Sarmientos, a composer from Guatemala.

Bonolo Kgaile, a violinist from Bloemfontein, showed accurate intonation and graceful phrasing as she played a typically elegant and melodious Romance Op. 11 by Dvorak. Sakhile Humbane, a 16-year-old from KZN, proved to be a brilliant flautist as he played a Concerto for Flute by the French composer Jacques Ibert (1890-1952).

Lykele Temmingh and the orchestra played a skilful and sympathetic role throughout the concert. - Michael Green