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Wednesday, January 20, 2016


Two accomplished performers in a programme of outstanding music. (Review by Michael Green)

For their first concert of the year the Friends of Music presented, at the Durban Jewish Centre, two accomplished performers in a programme of outstanding music that was much appreciated by a big audience.

Philippe Raskin, a 33-year-old Belgian pianist, and Johannes Fleischmann, a 32-year-old Austrian violinist, formed their duo partnership six years ago, and since then have achieved significant international success, including a visit to South Africa in 2011.

They opened their Durban programme with one of the finest of Mozart’s 16 mature violin sonatas, the two-movement work in E minor, K. 304. This dates from 1778, when the composer was 22, and it is an extraordinary combination of vigour and sorrow, the sadness probably caused by the then recent death of Mozart’s mother.

The bold opening phrases immediately established the authority and insight of the players, and the entire work was played with great strength and, where required, delicacy.

As one would expect, there was complete understanding between the performers, with well-judged tonal balance.

This was followed by a great favourite, Beethoven’s Spring Sonata in F major, Op. 24. Beethoven didn’t give the work that name, but it is entirely appropriate; the music has an enchanting freshness and zest.

This spirit was admirably captured by the players, who were rewarded with prolonged applause at the end.

The programme ended in less familiar territory with Richard Strauss’s Sonata in E flat, Op. 18. Strauss is of course best known for his big orchestral tone poems. This sonata, completed in 1888 when he was 24, shows his great gifts in the very different field of chamber music.

It was written at a time when the composer had fallen in love with a soprano named Pauline de Ahna, whom he later married. It is a romantic, melodious work, with a particularly beautiful slow movement.

Raskin and Fleischmann extracted full value from it, giving great pleasure to the audience, many of whom were probably hearing this music for the first time.

The players brought a highly successful recital to a close with an improvised, or semi-improvised, encore.

The prelude performer of the evening , supported by the National Lotteries Commission, was Tumelo Zondi, a 17-year-old soprano who has just matriculated from Eden College, Durban.

Accompanied at the piano by her teacher, Amina Carini, she showed an accurate, full-toned voice and a good stage presence in songs by Handel, Giovanni Paisiello (this item best known for Beethoven’s piano variations on it), Massenet, Hugo Wolf and Michael Head. - Michael Green