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Wednesday, January 27, 2016


(Andrew Campbell & Sarita Uranovsky)

Modern music by an Armenian, an Estonian and a Turk proved to be an effective audience deterrent when the Friends of Music presented their second concert of the year, at the Durban Jewish Centre.

The performers were a violin and piano duo from the United States. The attendance was less than a third of the number who came to the same venue a week earlier to hear another duo play Mozart and Beethoven. And on this second occasion, a substantial number of the listeners left at the interval.

The players were Sarita Uranovsky, violin, who was born in Cape Town and now lives in Boston, and Andrew Campbell, piano, another American. Both are distinguished music academics, and perhaps it was a desire to teach the people that influenced their choice of programme. The five items were all from the 20th and 21st century and, with the exception of works by Debussy and Ravel, they were unknown territory to the Durban audience.

Arno Babajanian (1921-1983), the Armenian, was represented by his violin sonata in B flat minor, written in 1959. This turned out to be a strongly rhythmical, noisy work, difficult to play and difficult to listen to.

In quieter mood was a Passacaglia by the Estonian composer Arvo Part (b. 1935). This was a modern (2003) version of an old Italian music form, usually variations with a repetitive bass accompaniment. Rather an attractive piece.

Ahmed Adnan Saygum (1907-1991) provided the Turkish component in the programme with a four-movement suite written in 1955. This is apparently based largely on Turkish folk dances. Impressive and interesting, but the audience wouldn’t have gone home humming the tunes.

The playing, as far as one could judge, was first-rate throughout, and it was certainly so in the two more familiar items on the programme, Debussy’s 1916 Sonata, one of his last works, and Ravel’s gypsy piece Tzigane, written in 1924.

The prelude performer of the evening, supported by the National Lotteries Commission, was Leia Poona, a 14-year-old violinist who is a pupil of Hristo Kardjiev, former leader of the KZN Philharmonic. Accompanied at the piano by Bobby Mills, she played a piece by the celebrated Jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli and the famous Dark Eyes by Adalgiso Ferraris. She showed technical ability and a sense of style beyond her years.  A most promising player. - Michael Green