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Friday, February 26, 2016


(Mattia Zappa & Massimiliano Mainolfi)

Accomplished performers in a well-chosen programme. (Review by Michael Green)

Two accomplished performers and a well-chosen programme attracted a big audience to the Durban Jewish Centre for the latest concert of the Friends of Music.

The players were Mattia Zappa (cello) and Massimiliano Mainolfi (piano), who are on their sixth visit to South Africa and who played in Durban some years ago.

Zappa is from Switzerland, Mainolfi from Italy. They formed their duo partnership 21 years ago when they were studying at the Juilliard music school in New York. Since then they have established an international reputation, and it is easy to see and hear why. They are skilful, thoughtful, sympathetic performers, with a mutual understanding formed by their long years of association.

As it happened, Zappa was the dominant partner in the programme of 19th and 20th century music. Mainolfi is a first-rate pianist with an immaculate technique and strong interpretative insights, but it was Zappa’s golden cello tone that caught the ear throughout the concert.

They opened with Sergei Prokofiev’s cello sonata Op. 119, written in 1949. With a melodious and sometimes lyrical character, this is much more accessible and interesting than some modern music, and the audience obviously enjoyed it.

This was followed by the Rondo in G minor Op. 94 by Antonin Dvorak, an expressive and original work by the great Czech composer.

The main item of the evening was Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata, written in 1824 for a strange instrument called the arpeggione, a sort of cross between a guitar and a cello. The arpeggione soon became obsolete, but Schubert’s work has survived triumphantly in an arrangement for cello and piano. It is prime Schubert, with a wonderful flow of melody, and the players and audience revelled in this eloquent performance.

The programme ended with a relatively little known work by Tchaikovsky, his Pezzo Capriccioso (literally Capricious Piece); attractive, brilliant and a little sad, typical Tchaikovsky.

In response to prolonged applause, the duo gave an encore, Debussy’s Girl with the Flaxen Hair, from his first book of piano preludes.

The prelude performer of the evening, supported by the National Lotteries Commission, was a guitarist, 19-year-old Arianna Carini, a Durban girl who is now a second year music student at the University of Cape Town. She played pieces by Manuel de Falla and the Paraguayan guitarist Agustin Barrios and Stanley Myers’s Cavatina from the film The Deer Hunter, and she displayed confidence, a calm demeanour, and considerable technical skills. - Michael Green