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Wednesday, June 17, 2015


(Ben Schoeman & Anzel Gerber)

Outstanding recital of cello and piano. (Review by Michael Green)

Two of South Africa’s most gifted young musicians presented an outstanding recital of cello and piano music for the Friends of Music at the Durban Jewish Centre.

Anzel Gerber, cello, and Ben Schoeman, piano, are both well-known as soloists and as chamber music players, and they have often combined their musical talents in recitals such as this one, with most enjoyable results.

The repertory of music for the cello and piano is somewhat limited, possibly because composers have had to face the problems of tonal balance; the bass notes of the piano can obscure the deep tone of the cello. Predictably enough, Beethoven solved the problems successfully in his five cello sonatas, and the first item on this Durban programme was his Sonata in C major, Op. 102, No. 1, which dates from 1815.

Both players excelled in this splendid composition. Their calm and dedicated approach to its complexities and subtleties impressed the large audience, as did their mutual understanding, based on their long-standing musical partnership.

This was followed by Benjamin Britten’s Sonata for Cello and Piano, Op. 65, written in 1961. Britten’s music is not to everybody’s taste, to put it mildly, but there was no denying the quality of the playing.

This is a 20-minute, five-movement work and it has many interesting features, such as the development of the first movement from a tiny fragment of melody, the pizzicato, guitar-like second movement, and the solemn slow movement. This was all played with skill and conviction.

In the second half of the concert the players moved to the romantic era, with Schumann’s eloquent Adagio and Allegro, Op. 70, and Chopin’s Sonata in G minor, Op. 65.

Chopin’s sonata was written in 1846. It is the composer’s last published work and is one of only nine compositions that he did not write for solo piano. It is rather neglected, inexplicably, because it is romantic, melodious, lyrical, passionate and poetic.

The performance was beyond reproach. The players extracted full value from the inimitably Chopinesque melody of the dreamy slow movement (it sounds like one of the composer’s Nocturnes) and from the headlong rush of the Finale.

Anzel Gerber produced a beautiful tone from her cello, and Ben Schoeman had ample opportunity to display his virtuoso powers in Chopin’s brilliant score.

The prelude performer of the evening, initiated by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, was Nina Alborough, an accomplished oboe player who, accompanied by Margrit Deppe at the piano, performed two movements of a concerto by Saint-Saens. - Michael Green