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Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Memorable concert from the cheerfully named Sempre Viva. (Review by Michael Green)

An evening of varied chamber music was presented by the cheerfully named Sempre Viva (always bravo) Trio for the Friends of Music at the Durban Jewish Centre.

The trio consists of Denise Sutton (violin) and Kerryn Wisniewski (piano), both South Africans, and Polina Burdukova (cello), described as Russian although she emigrated to South Africa with her parents 22 years ago. All three are accomplished and experienced players, trained in Europe and now based in South Africa. They have performed together a good deal, as a trio and, in the case of the cellist and pianist, as a duo (the two of them gave a recital in Durban three years ago).

There is a rich repertory for piano trios, and these performers moved a little off the beaten track with extended works by Arensky and Shostakovich, a Grieg piece and an arrangement of Faure’s song Apre un reve, After a dream.

They opened with Grieg’s Andante con moto, a little-known work by this gifted and distinctive composer.

Then came the Trio in D minor Op. 32 by Anton Arensky. This is reasonably well-known and it was played here at the Jewish Centre not long ago. Arensky was a Russian who died of tuberculosis in 1906 at the age of 45 after a rather dissipated life. This trio is a delightful piece, and it was delivered with great zest and panache by the Sempre Viva players. Perhaps one of these days we will have a performance of some of Arensky’s outstanding two-piano music.

In strong contrast was the grim and uncompromising Piano Trio No. 2, Op. 67 by Dmitri Shostakovich. This was written in 1944, and it reflects the composer’s horror at the Nazi atrocities of the time. It is undeniably impressive, from its eerie opening, with a high cello note, to its bizarre finale, with a reference to Jewish folk music.

Sempre Viva played this difficult music with great skill and conviction. Not light entertainment, but an experience.

After this the last item on the programme, the Faure piece, came like a balm, a benediction.

A good-sized audience gave the players strong applause for a memorable concert.

The Prelude Player of the evening, funded by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, was a very young pianist, 11-year-old Rachel Wedderburn-Maxwell, a pupil at Durban Girls’ College who is taught music by Liezl-Maret Jacobs. She showed a technique and poise beyond her years as she played pieces by Friedrich Kuhlau (1786-1832) and Chopin and a set of variations by Henk Temmingh, a member of the well-known Temmingh clan of South African musicians. - Michael Green