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Thursday, October 25, 2012


(David Salleras)

Attractive musical fare offered by saxophonists Maxine Matthews and David Salleras as well as pianist Christopher Duigan. (Review by Michael Green)

The saxophone has come a long way since the Belgian Adolphe Sax invented it in 1846.

His intention was to produce something between a woodwind and a brass instrument, something that would sound good in military bands. It popularity spread rapidly. Jazz musicians took to the saxophone like ducks to water, and since the 20th century it has been used quite extensively by classical composers, including Debussy, Hindemith, Ravel, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Milhaud, Villa-Lobos and Glazunov.

In spite of all this, a classical saxophone recital is a rarity in the concert hall, and a performance by two saxophone players is even more unusual. This was the attractive musical fare offered to the Friends of Music at the Durban Jewish Centre when the saxophonists Maxine Matthews and David Salleras joined forces with the pianist Christopher Duigan.

Maxine Matthews is a young South African and is due to further her studies in the United States next year. David Salleras is Spanish and an experienced performer. Christopher Duigan is, of course, a South African based in Pietermaritzburg.

Their programme consisted mainly of music that is not well known. They started with a lively composition by Jules Demersseman (1833-1866), a Frenchman who was an early saxophone enthusiast, and continued with a three-movement trio by Francis Poulenc (1899-1963). This was a transcription of a work originally written for piano, oboe and bassoon, and it was typically Poulenc music: sophisticated, witty, tuneful, frisky. It was most enjoyable.

David Salleras, who comes from Barcelona, contributed two of his own works for solo saxophone, both clever novelties which showed his mastery of his instrument. They had a Spanish flavour and one was accompanied by foot-stamping by the player.

The three performers jointly presented pieces by Astor Piazzolla, the Brazilian king of the tango, and by Jean-Baptiste Singelee, a 19th century Belgian composer who was a friend of Adolphe Sax. And Maxine Matthews and Christopher Duigan played two movements of Darius Milhaud’s well-known Scaramouche suite.

High points of the concert were brilliant piano solos from Christopher Duigan: Ravel’s Alborado del gracioso and the three Danzas Argentinas by Alberto Ginastera, who died in 1983.

The Prelude Performer of the evening, sponsored by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, was a young trumpeter, Celukuthula Ngema. Accompanied by Bobbie Mills at the piano, he showed skill and poise in playing two movements of a delightful trumpet concerto by the Austrian composer Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837). - Michael Green