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Wednesday, September 28, 2016


(Sergey Malov, Peter Martens & Bryan Wallick)

Little known chamber music from Russia was played by three outstanding instrumentalists. (Review by Michael Green)

Little known chamber music from Russia was played by three outstanding instrumentalists at the latest concert of the Friends of Music at the Durban Jewish Centre.

Any misgivings the audience might have had about the choice of programme were quickly dispelled by the sheer quality of the performance by the Trio Elegiaque.

Elegiac music is, by definition, sad; an elegy is a lamentation, usually for someone who has recently died. The three works on the programme, by Sergei Rachmaninoff, Dmitri Shostakovich and Pyotr Tchaikovsky, were all written as tributes to friends. But their basic melancholy is tempered by fluent melodies, strong rhythms and rich harmonies.

The performers were: Sergey Malov, violin, born in Russia and now an internationalist who speaks six languages fluently; Peter Martens, cello, born in Cape Town and now living in Stellenbosch; and Bryan Wallick, piano, born in the United States and now living in Pretoria.

They opened with Rachmaninoff’s Trio elegiaque No. 1 in G minor, composed in 1892 when the composer was 19. He wrote this as a tribute to Tchaikovsky, who died a year later. The composition is remarkably mature, with the sweeping melodies so typical of Rachmaninoff’s later works.

Shostakovich’s Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor provided a striking contrast. It was written in 1944, during World War 2, and is dedicated to a close friend who had died. It is strident, solemn and, in the final movement, strongly melodic, with references to Jewish traditional music.

The playing was brilliant. Bryan Wallick is a virtuoso pianist, Sergey Malov is an expressive violinist with an imposing technique, and Peter Martens obtains a full rich tone from his cello. In combination they produced a performance to remember.

Tchaikovsky dedicated his two-movement Piano Trio in A minor, Op. 50, to the pianist Nikolai Rubinstein, who died in 1881. Rubinstein once described Tchaikovsky’s B flat minor piano concerto, now perhaps the most famous of all concertos, as worthless and unplayable. He later changed his mind about it.

Tchaikovsky’s lyrical, passionate music is irresistible to normal ears, and the Trio Elegiaque extracted full value from this big romantic chamber work, much to the delight of the audience.

The prelude performer of the evening, supported by the National Lotteries Commission, was Morgan Rowland, an 18-year-old flute player from Wykeham Collegiate school in Pietermaritzburg.

Accompanied at the piano by Andrew Warburton, she displayed an accurate, full tone as she played the beautiful Dance of the Blessed Spirits from Gluck’s opera Orpheus and Eurydice, and a sonata movement by Paul Hindemith. - Michael Green