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Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Extreme contrasts from refined chamber music to full on brass sound. (Review by Michael Green)

When the composer Gustav Mahler visited the Niagara Falls a century ago he said “At last, a real fortissimo”.  Well, he hadn’t heard the KZN Youth Wind Band, which gave a remarkable performance when playing for the Friends of Music at the Durban Jewish Centre.

This was a concert of extreme contrasts. Musically, the major part was played by the Trio CompaTRIOts, who performed delicate and refined chamber music from the early eighteenth century. The trio consists of David Smith (harpsichord); Margrit Deppe (oboe); and Marguerite Spies (cello), the latter two being members of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra. All are experienced and accomplished players.

They opened with a sonata by Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741), best known as the composer of The Four Seasons. The oboe dominates the sonata, and Margrit Deppe excelled in this elegant and concise music.

In much the same vein was the Trio Sonata by Johann Quantz (1697-1773), the son of a village blacksmith in Hanover, Germany, who rose to become music tutor and court composer of the king of Prussia. Again, a stylish performance by the trio of a seldom-played composition.

Marin Marais (1656-1728) was French, son of a cobbler in Paris;  they seem to have been upwardly mobile in those days. The trio played his attractive Variations on La Folia, one of the oldest tunes in European music;  it has been used by dozens of composers, from Bach to Rachmaninov.

Marguerite Spies played an unusual piece for solo cello by the Cape Town composer Hendrik Hofmeyr (born 1957). It is called Cadenza, and it is intended to show the wide variety of effects that can be achieved from a cello. Interesting, with, inevitably I suppose, some strange noises.
The Youth Wind Band, which contributed about half of the total programme, is based at the Durban Music School and is made up of 50 talented musicians aged between 14 and 27, all brass, woodwind and percussion players.

Energetically conducted by Russell Scott, who teaches music at Northwood High School, the band started with a tremendous blast in the Armenian Dances by the twentieth century American composer Alfred Reed, and continued with great power in music by Gustav Holst and Thiemo Kras, plus, in somewhat quieter mood, film music and a selection from the celebrated musical Les Misérables.

There was no doubting the skill and enthusiasm of these young players as they produced a formidable volume of sound, and they were given warm applause by an appreciative audience. - Michael Green