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Wednesday, June 29, 2016


(Christopher Duigan)

Artistes playing with high technical skills and fine insight into the character of the compositions. (Review by Michael Green)

A programme of top-class music by Beethoven, Brahms and Saint-Saens was presented by three locally based performers to a big and appreciative Friends of Music audience in the Durban Jewish Centre.

The players were:

Christopher Duigan, who lives in Pietermaritzburg and has over the past 15 years become one of South Africa’s leading pianists, giving about 70 concerts a year.

Junnan Sun, who was born in China, came to South Africa with his parents as a teenager, and is now, at the age of 26, principal clarinettist of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra.

Aristide du Plessis, who was born in Durban 27 years ago, was a pupil at Westville Boys’ High School, studied music in Cape Town and Zurich, Switzerland, and is now a member of the KZNPO.

Predictably, they formed impressive combinations in this chamber concert, playing with high technical skills and fine insight into the character of the compositions.

They began with Beethoven’s Trio in B flat major, Op. 11, which can be played with either a clarinet or a violin in one of the parts. It is a delightful work, written in 1797, light-hearted and brilliant, with a final theme and variations based on a song which was a popular hit in Vienna at the time.

It was played by our trio with great verve and with obvious enjoyment.

Aristide du Plessis joined Christopher Duigan in the finest of Beethoven’s five cello sonatas, Op. 69 in A major.

Again, the performance was committed, thoughtful and skilful, with excellent tonal balance between the players.

We moved to the late 19th and early 20th centuries with Brahms’s Clarinet Trio, Op. 114, written in 1891, and Saint-Saens’s Clarinet Sonata Op. 167, which dates from 1921, the year of the composer’s death.

The Brahms is typical of his late period: calm, reflective, slightly melancholy at times but with flashes of virtuoso brilliance.

The clarinet, queen of the woodwind instruments, has a major role here, and Junnan Sun played it beautifully, especially in the slow movement.

Duigan and Du Plessis were in no way overshadowed in a lovely performance of a work not often heard here.

The Saint-Saens sonata was tuneful, polished and remarkably youthful, considering that the composer was 86 when he wrote it.

Beethoven, Brahms and Saint-Saens were all pianists, and the piano is the essential partner in all these works. Christopher Duigan handled the widely varying demands of these composers with high ability and great confidence.

Over the years he has earned a big reputation with consistent performances that convey the intentions of the composer rather than the ego of the player, and that sense of dedication was always apparent in this concert.

Incidentally, Aristide du Plessis appeared at a Friends of Music concert about 10 years ago as a “Prelude Performer”, the opportunity given to promising young players. He took cello lessons with Boris Kerimov, principal cellist of the KZNPO, who was present this time to hear his protégé, now his colleague.

The Prelude Performer at this concert (supported by the National Lotteries Commission) was Kirsten Moody, a matric pupil at Wykeham Collegiate, Pietermaritzburg. Accompanied at the piano by her teacher, Rita Deysel, she played a flute sonata by the 20th century French composer Francis Poulenc. - Michael Green