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Thursday, January 16, 2014


Two highly accomplished performers excel in Friends of Music’s first recital of 2014. (Review by Michael Green)

For their first recital of 2014 the Friends of Music presented two highly accomplished performers who gave a programme of music that was not unfamiliar but was pleasantly distant from the very familiar.

The violinist Joanna Marie Frankel is concert master of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra. Christopher Duigan, one of the most gifted, industrious and versatile pianists in South Africa, is based in Pietermaritzburg. Both them are of course very well known here and a big audience turned up at the Durban Jewish Centre to hear them play.

They opened with Mozart’s Sonata in E minor K 304. Mozart wrote about 35 sonatas for violin and piano, and this is one of the finest. Written in 1778, soon after the death of Mozart’s mother, it is a two-movement work in melancholy mood. The second movement is particularly beautiful, with poignant melodies, and both performers excelled in the entire sonata.

Edward Elgar’s only violin sonata, in E minor, Op. 82, is one of the composer’s late works, dating from 1918. In brief remarks from the platform, Joanna Frankel made clear her great admiration of this music. It has many lovely moments, but I think performances of it are likely to remain occasional, as has been the case for many decades.

In a recital of very high standards the Brahms Sonata No 3 in D minor, Op. 108, produced what was to my ears the best playing of the evening. At the piano Christopher Duigan who had had a fairly subdued role in the Elgar, came into his own here as he delivered Brahms’s bold, broad phrases (displaying in the process his formidable keyboard technique).

The virtuoso passages were executed with great skill by both players but the most memorable moments came in the slow movement, which held the audience in a kind of trance as its beauties were unfolded.

The final item on the programme was Manuel de Falla’s Danse Espagnole, from his opera La Vida Breve, arranged for violin and piano by Fritz Kreisler. This brilliant and captivating Spanish music brought forth prolonged applause and shouts of Bravo.

The Prelude Performer of the evening, supported by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, was the pianist Ewan Slabber, a 17-year-old pupil at Glenwood High School. He showed confidence, a calm platform demeanour, and technical skills beyond his years as he played the first movement of Beethoven’s Sonata in E major, Op. 14, No. 1, and Mendelssohn’s Andante and Rondo Capriccioso. - Michael Green