national Arts Festival Banner

Friday, May 8, 2015


It was like a delicate necklace of small but sparkling gems. (Review by Michael Green)

Two gifted KZN musicians, Joanna Frankel (violin) and Liezl-Maret Jacobs (piano), presented an unusual and delightful programme when they played for the Friends of Music before a large audience at the Durban Jewish Centre.

They played nine fairly short pieces, with the emphasis on nothing too solemn. The longest work was Ravel’s Sonata for Violin and Piano, which runs for about 20 minutes. The rest of the programme ranged from Mozart to Gershwin. It was like a delicate necklace of small but sparkling gems.

The performance was, as one would expect, outstanding, with both players deriving and giving much enjoyment.

They began with music from George Gershwin’s opera Porgy and Bess, this being an arrangement by the great violinist Jascha Heifetz. The items used in this suite are Summertime, A woman is a sometime thing, It ain’t necessarily so, and Bess you is my woman now. In this form they were as captivating as ever.

Towards the end of his life the French composer Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) became interested in American jazz, and this is reflected in his Sonata for Violin and Piano, written in the 1920’s. The slow movement is called Blues, and it is a fascinating adaptation of jazz elements to a classical mould.

The sonata is technically a very challenging work for both performers, especially the final movement, and Joanna Frankel and Liezl Jacobs emerged triumphantly from this forest of difficulties. Judging by the applause the audience much appreciated the quality of the performance.

This was followed by the first of three compositions called Pampeana by the Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera (1916-83). The title is a reference to the Pampas, the great plains of South America, and the music has the feel of the wide open spaces. It also has plenty of fierce Latin rhythms. An impressive work, played with skill and insight.

After three pleasant salon pieces by Edward Elgar (1857-1934) the players turned their attention to Mozart, who was represented by two compositions originally written for violin and orchestra, the Adagio in E major, K. 261, and the Rondo in C major, K. 373.

The Adagio was conceived, and later replaced, as the slow movement of a concerto, and it is calm, serene. The Rondo is lively, witty, relaxed. The players captured admirably the spirit of both works, with the violinist producing a beautiful cantabile tone and the pianist demonstrating with nimble fingers that her part lost little in being transferred from orchestra to keyboard.

Finally we had the Carmen Fantasie written in 1883 by the Spanish violinist Pablo Sarasate. Using all the tricks of the virtuoso’s trade, it incorporates some of the favourite themes from Bizet’s opera, and our Durban duo played it with zest and verve.

The Prelude Player of the evening, supported by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, was Sethu Goduka, a soprano who is a Grade 11 pupil at Maris Stella school. Showing a big, well-controlled voice and a good stage presence, she performed songs from Schubert, Puccini and the musical Les Misérables. - Michael Green