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Monday, March 16, 2020


(Margrit Deppe, Aristide du Plessis; Evelien Ballantine, Ralitza Macheva & David Smith)

There was a genuine understanding of the Baroque idiom on Macheva’s part. Notable was the strength of her playing and her great commitment. (Review by Dr Martin Goldstein)

The third Friends of Music concert of 2020, which took place on Sunday March 15, 2020, featured the music of the early and late Baroque eras. It showcased the talent of some of KwaZulu-Natal’s finest musicians who have come together to form an ensemble called Suite 415.

This ensemble, which is passionate about Baroque music, comprises of Evelien Ballantine (Traverso), Ralitza Macheva (Baroque Violin), Margrit Deppe (Baroque Oboe), Aristide du Plessis (Baroque Cello) and David Smith (Cembalo). They performed 5 Dances (La Volta - la Canarie - Bransle de la Torche – Ballet - BourrĂ©e) from Terpsichore (1612) by Michael Praetorius (1571-1621); Sonata for Violin and Basso Continuo, RV759 “Manchester no 5” by Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741); Quartet in D minor for Flute, Oboe, Violin, and Basso Continuo by Fortunato Riedel (mid-18th century?); Sonata for Flute and Basso Continuo in G major, Op. 2, No. 4 by Pietro Locatelli (1695-1764); Prelude and Fughetta in G major (harpsichord), BWV 902 by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750); Trio Sonata in A minor for Flute, Oboe and Basso Continuo, FTR 148 by Johan Joachim Quantz (1697-1773); Prelude - Sarabande - Gigue from Suite No. 1 in G major for solo cello, BWV 1007 by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) and Quartet in G major for Flute, Oboe, Violin and Basso Continuo, from Tafelmusik I by George Philipp Telemann (1681-1767).

In the Praetorius, there was a good sense of Baroque syncopation as seen in the compelling drive of the dotted rhythms. Notable was Macheva’s passion and confidence. Professor David Smith had an innate keyboard sense on the harpsichord. Ballantine is a mature performer who produces a crystal clear sound. Du Plessis has a sympathetic touch as a cellist. The instrumentalists gave helpful explanations about their instruments and styles.

In the Vivaldi, there was a genuine understanding of the idiom on Macheva’s part. She almost invested Romanticism into the Baroque idiom. She and Du Plessis were completely in tune with each other in terms of the rhythmic motifs. Notable was the strength of Macheva’s playing and her great commitment.

In the Riedel, melody and motif were preeminent. The motifs were effectively carried between the woodwinds.

In the Locatelli, there was a quaint gracefulness and a sensitive interpretation. The sentiment in the flute was heartfelt.

In the Prelude of the Bach harpsichord solo, Professor Smith displayed good weight transfer between the fingers. In both the Prelude and the Fugue, there was an excellent left-hand touch.

In the Quantz, the interactions between the oboe and the flute were effective. There were lovely suspensions which revealed the sensitivity of the musicians. The interplay between rhythm and articulation was realized in the careful bowing of the cello.

In the Prelude of the Bach cello solo, Du Plessis displayed excellent fingering, great warmth of tone and economic use of the bow. He had excellent technical control. In the Sarabande, his personality came through and there was a sense of nostalgia in the music and his interpretation of it. He displayed a tasteful use of vibrato. In the Gigue, again, his economic and sensible use of bowing fitted the contrasting articulatory figures.

In the Telemann, the regal dignity of the slow introduction was contrasted with great sparkle and lustre in the fast part. This was one of the highlights of the concert. In the slow movement, there was great depth and poignancy. Throughout this work and the concert as a whole, there was enormous enthusiasm and positivity and an insatiable rhythmic drive.

The Prelude performers were two of Durban’s finest young pianists, sisters Mingmei and Gongxuan Zhang. They are 13 and 11 years old respectively and have acquired a remarkable degree of technical proficiency for such young musicians along with a budding sense of musical maturity.

Mingmei performed the First movement from Sonata in D, Hob. XVI: 37 by F J Haydn and Prelude from Pour le Piano by C. Debussy. Gongxuan performed Romance by F Liszt and Play Piano Play by F Gulda. In the Haydn, Mingmei displayed a mature sense of character and her right-hand touch was excellent. In the Liszt, Gongxuan displayed a natural sense of the Romantic idiom. Her left and right hands merged seamlessly and there was a perfect balance of melody and accompaniment. Together with this, there was a good sense of phrasing. In the Debussy, Mingmei displayed a sense of the modern idiom and much agility. Her right hand brought out the melody effectively and she played with much strength. In the Gulda, Gongxuan displayed excellent hand coordination. – Dr Martin Goldstein

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