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Friday, June 3, 2016


(The Durban Chamber Choir. Pic by Clinton Marius)

Classical Notes by William Charlton-Perkins, republished courtesy of The Mercury newspaper)

The Durban Chamber Choir, conducted by Christopher Cockburn, continues its series of innovatively programmed concerts on Sunday (June 5) at 15h00 at St Thomas’s Anglican Church in Musgrave Road. DCC in collaboration with the Kayser Quartet will perform a programme engagingly titled Haydn With Love.

Haydn’s Missa Brevis in B flat (also known as the ‘Little Organ Mass’) and Mozart’s masterly String Quartet in G K387 are the centrepieces on the programme. The Mass, originally composed for a small instrumental ensemble rather than a full orchestra, will on this occasion be played by members of the Geza Kayser Quartet, with Jacques Heyns at the organ.

Cockburn, DCC’s director, writes: “The six movements of the Mass are strongly contrasting in mood and character but two features in particular are unusual. Haydn shortens the two movements which contain the most words, the Gloria and the Credo, by giving each voice part a different line of text and running them simultaneously. Paradoxically, he then sets the text of the Benedictus as an extended solo for soprano with an elaborate ornamental part for the organ – it is this that has given the piece its nickname”.

Mozart’s superb G Major String Quartet, sometimes nicknamed the ‘Spring Quartet’ because of its sunny first movement, is the first of the famous set of six quartets that he dedicated to his friend and senior colleague, Haydn. “The work’s Minuet is, unusually, placed second in the series of four movements. The slow third movement is remarkable for its depth of personal expressiveness, while the fourth movement has often been compared with the finale of the ‘Jupiter’ Symphony in its contrapuntal virtuosity,” writes Cockburn.

The programme continues with a series of pieces based on the medieval Latin hymn text ‘Ubi Caritas’, the first line of which may be translated ‘Where love is, God is.’ DCC will first sing the original Gregorian chant hymn, followed by a series of more recent settings. The French composer Maurice Durufle incorporated the original chant into his characteristically Impressionist harmonic style. The version by the Italian Mariano Garau harks back to the medieval period in its compositional technique, but does not refer to the original chant.

The programme ends with two settings by the contemporary Norwegian composer, Ola Gjeilo, now based in the USA. The first is unaccompanied and again makes reference to the contours of Gregorian chant in its melodic style without actually quoting the original, but the second is wholly contemporary in style. It provides an opportunity, rare in contemporary music, for the choir to join once again with the string quartet, forming a rich and varied harmonic texture, the choir occasionally dividing into eight parts and rising to moments of great intensity.

Haydn With Love will be repeated at the Hayfields Lutheran Church in Pietermaritzburg on Sunday June 12 at 15h00. Tickets at the door are R70 (R40 pensioners and students).

Finally, a note for chamber music enthusiasts: Durban Friends of Music association’s next recital takes place at the Jewish Club at 44 KE Masinga Road on Tuesday June 14 at 19h30.Two esteemed artists from the United States, violinist Rachel Priday and pianist Bryan Wallick, will perform Brahms’s Sonata Opus 100, Prokofiev’s Violin Sonata No 1 in F minor Opus 80, Beethoven’s Sonata for Piano and Violin in C minor Opus30 No 2, and the ever-popular Zigeunerweisen, Op. 20 by Pablo de Sarasate. Booking is through Computicket, and safe parking is provided. – William Charlton-Perkins