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Thursday, July 30, 2015


(James Grace & Bridget Rennie Salonen)

A most enjoyable concert from two superior artists. (Review by Michael Green)

The latest concert of the Friends of Music at the Durban Jewish Centre presented an unusual combination of performers, with an unusual name, playing an unusual programme.

The Zomari Duo was formed about ten years ago by two South African musicians, the guitarist James Grace and the flautist Bridget Rennie Salonen. Both live in Cape Town, where they teach at the College of Music of the University of Cape Town. Bridget is married to a violinist, Petri Salonen, and they have three children. James was born in England but has lived in South Africa since he was eight.

Zomari is the Swahili word for flute, Swahili being the language widely spoken in east Africa.

As for the programme, it included the names of Giuliani, Hoover, Machado and Tarrega.

Having said all that, let me hasten to add that this was a most enjoyable concert, offering music ranging from the early 18th century to the late 20th. The flute was the dominant instrument in nearly all the works played, with the guitar supplying harmony, rhythm and an exotic quality.

Both players were excellent throughout. They opened with Bela Bartok’s Romanian Folk Dances, which date from 1915, six short pieces that are authentic folk music. The performance established at the outset that we were listening to two superior artists.

This was followed by a four-movement Sonata, Op. 85, by Mauro Giuliani (1781-1829), a pioneer of guitar music. This work was tuneful and high-spirited.

Katherine Hoover is a contemporary American composer, and Bridget Rennie Salonen played one of her works for solo, unaccompanied flute, an evocative piece called Winter Spirits based on Native American music.

Another contemporary composer, the Brazilian Celso Machado, was represented by three pieces called Musiques Populaires Bresiliennes, and then we were taken to the 18th century with a cheerful, bright sonata by the German baroque composer Georg Philipp Telemann.

A high point of the evening was provided by James Grace in a celebrated composition for solo guitar, Francisco Tarrega’s haunting Memories of the Alhambra. The continuous tremolo makes this is a difficult piece to play, and it was fascinating to watch James Grace’s rapid fingering as he delivered the music with high skill.

Four pieces by Astor Piazzolla, the Argentine king of the tango, brought an outstanding concert to an end.

The Prelude Performers of the evening, supported by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, were two clarinettists, Brett Alborough and Wesley Lewis, who played a double clarinet concerto by the Czech composer Franz Krommer (1759-1831). It was attractive, lively music, and the performance was very good, of virtually professional standard. Ann Muir accompanied the clarinettists in a piano arrangement of the orchestral part. - Michael Green