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Thursday, October 22, 2015


(James Grace & Morgan Szymanski)

An evening of lovely, refined music. (Review by Michael Green)

A solo classical guitar recital is something of a rarity; a recital by two guitarists is even less usual. This was the fare presented at the latest Friends of Music concert in the Durban Jewish Centre, and it turned out to be an evening of lovely, refined music.

The performers were James Grace, a South African who is with the University of Cape Town, and Morgan Szymanski, a 36-year-old Mexican. Both are graduates of the Royal College of Music in London.

Both are highly accomplished guitarists. Guitar playing is an individualist art, and the obvious problem with two performers is one of co-ordination. This was completely overcome in this recital, especially in the best-known item on the programme, Francisco Tarrega’s Memories of the Alhambra, arranged for two guitars. The difficult tremolo passages were played with great precision and empathy, and the result was a memorable performance.

Most of the seven items on the programme came from Spain and Latin America, the exception being an attractive, tuneful Duo by the 18th century Italian composer Ferdinando Carulli.

Manuel de Falla’s celebrated Spanish Dance from his opera La Vie Breve was given a lively performance, and in more sentimental and romantic mood we had two 20th century compositions from Mexico, Julio Cesar Oliva’s Suite Montebello and a three-piece suite by Manuel M. Ponce. This latter work provided an impressionist atmosphere and a delightful Scherzino that seemed familiar to many members of the audience.

Finally we had music by two contemporary Brazilian composers, Celso Machado and Paulo Bellinati, melodious and rhythmical, including some hand-drumming on the guitars.

The Prelude Performer of the evening, supported by the National Lotteries Commission, was Janice Atkinson, a 21-year flautist who is a music student. Accompanied at the piano by Dana Hadjiev, she played a flute sonata by the French composer Francis Poulenc (1899-1963). Its three movements run for a total of less than 15 minutes. Janice displayed skills of a professional standard in this cool, concise and sophisticated music. - Michael Green