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Wednesday, February 1, 2017


The verve and vivacity of the players captivated the listeners. (Review by Michael Green)

The Friends of Music began their year of concerts at the Durban Jewish Centre with a most unusual presentation, a programme of gypsy music performed by five members of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra.

This group call themselves Gypsy Strings. They are led by Ralitza Matcheva, a Bulgaria-born violinist, and the other players are Roberto Palma, violin, from Italy; Annamaria D’Andrea, viola, also from Italy; Ralitza Todorova, cello, from Bulgaria; and Stephane Pechoux, percussion, from France.

A very large audience attended this concert, and they obviously greatly enjoyed it. The programme was a selection of traditional Bulgarian, Romanian, Russian and Greek music in gypsy style, and the composers represented included Georges Bizet, Bela Bartok, Pablo Sarasate and Johannes Brahms.

Most of this music was probably unknown territory to most of the audience, but the verve and vivacity of the players captivated the listeners.

Ralitza Matcheva introduced the items on the programme, and it was a pity that she did not have a microphone; her comments were largely inaudible. But this did not really affect the general enjoyment of the evening as the players delivered the music with high skills and enthusiasm.

The prelude performer of the evening, supported by the National Lotteries Commission, was Nontobeko Bhengu, a 17-year-old soprano from Ndwedwe. Accompanied at the piano by Nina Watson, she sang arias from Handel’s Orlando, Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, and Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. -  Michael Green