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Friday, August 12, 2016


An evening of highly skilled and enjoyable playing. (Review by Michael Green)

The distinctly unusual combination of two performers playing a flute and a harp attracted a surprisingly big audience to the Durban Jewish Centre for the latest concert of the Friends of Music.

The audience included many people not usually seen at these concerts; maybe Durban has an unknown army of flute and harp aficionados. Whatever the background, they were treated to an evening of highly skilled and enjoyable playing from Sabine Baird and Ventura Rosenthal.

Sabine Baird played the flute in a German orchestra before she came to South Africa 24 years ago. She joined the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra in 2005 and is now principal flautist there.

Ventura Rosenthal was born in Romania, emigrated to Israel in 1972 and became a harpist in orchestras there. She moved to South Africa in 1977 and is now principal harpist with the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra.

The repertoire of music for a flute and harp duo is presumably not huge. The programme here featured ten composers, and I would guess that only two of them, Claude Debussy and the opera composer Gaetano Donizetti, were known to most members of the audience. However, the music was consistently pleasant and interesting, and the standard of performance was excellent.

We opened with a sonata by Francois de Boisvallee, a 20th century French composer known mainly for his film music. The sonata was in the classical manner of 200 years ago, three short movements with a Gallic elegance.

This was followed by opera-style pieces by Donizetti, including a harp solo, and then we had the German composer Nicolai von Wilm (1834-1911) and music by two Viennese virtuoso performers, Franz Doppler (flute) and Antonio Zamara (harp).

Appropriately, because our concert was on Women’s Day, the programme included a woman composer, Carmen Petra Basacopol from Romania. She was represented by her sonata for flute and harp, fairly modern in style but not aggressively so.

Debussy’s Syrinx, written in 1913, a pioneering piece for solo flute, was highly evocative (in Greek mythology Syrinx was a nymph who changed herself into a water reed to escape the amorous attentions of Pan).

The recital ended with a work by Josef Molnar, an Austrian who was born in 1929 and who has spent many years in Japan. It was called Fantasy on Themes of Japanese Folk Songs, not as forbidding as one might expect, with discernible melodies.

The prelude performer of the evening, supported by the National Lotteries Commission, was Casey Chiang of Durban, an experienced and accomplished young pianist. She played a Prelude and Fugue by Clara Schumann, wife of Robert Schumann, and a piece called Troubled Water by the 20th century American composer Margaret Bonds. - Michael Green