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Tuesday, December 8, 2020


(Ralitza Macheva, Aristide Du Plessis & Annamaria D’Andrea)

Macheva’s long phrases carried the music throughout with her characteristic attention to the clarity of intonation and articulation. (Review by Dr Martin Goldstein)

St Thomas’ Anglican Church in Musgrave Road has recently established itself as a centre for concerts, attracting some of Durban’s finest musicians. They have recently been hosting a series of chamber music concerts on Sundays and the most recent one, the Lupa Trio, which took place on December 6, featured three of the KZNPO’s finest string instrumentalists, namely Ralitza Macheva on the violin, Annamaria D’Andrea on the viola and Aristide Du Plessis on the cello. The concert was in keeping with this year’s celebration of the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, featuring an entire programme dedicated to his compositions. The trio tackled a tricky and infrequently performed work, Beethoven’s op. 9, performing the first two trios from this work, the String Trio in G major, op. 9 no. 1 and the String Trio in D Major, op. 9 no. 2. The musicians believe strongly in the importance of hosting more chamber music concerts in Durban and the quality of their performance certainly bears testament to the potential for this. 

Beethoven’s op. 9, published in 1798, was considered at the time to be his most impressive chamber work to date. He dedicated it to Count Johann Georg von Browne, whom he valued as a patron. Indeed, in his informative introduction to the work, Du Plessis explained how Beethoven considered it to be his first mature work in terms of its thematic coherency. In the trio’s performance of the D Major String Trio, in the Allegretto, Macheva led the ensemble convincingly. The sensitivity of the playing was felt particularly in the chromatic inflections. Aristide’s passionate playing manifested in his tasteful use of vibrato. Macheva’s beautiful singing tone was notable. In the Andante quasi allegretto, the interplay of melodies between the voices merged seamlessly. While, on the whole, the playing was restrained, Du Plessis’s tone quality stood out. The trio understood that the essence of Beethoven’s music lies in the integration of a collection of motifs. In the Minuet. Allegro – Trio, full bows on Macheva’s part ensured a good tone. She also produced the accents convincingly with her spiccato technique. There was careful attention to the finer features of articulation and phrasing throughout. In the Rondo. Allegro, there was a good sense of contrast between the thematic elements and the music was never forced. Rather, the musicians allowed the phrases to shape themselves. Macheva balanced an excellent tone with a musical sensibility. The exchange of thematic material between the parts was well-handled.

As an interlude between the two string trios, the concert also featured two of Durban’s up-and-coming young talents who have already established a name for themselves locally. They are siblings Xizhi Aiden Luo (9) and his sister Weien Amy Luo (12). Aiden performed the Allegro ma non troppo, from Beethoven’s piano sonata op. 49/2, Sonata no. 20 in G major and Amy performed the Rondo. Allegro from Beethoven’s op. 49/1, Sonata no. 19 in G minor. 

Ayden produced a pleasing cantabile tone in his right hand which conveyed much passion. There was also good strength in his left-hand in the scale passages. His musicality revealed itself in his understanding of the contrasting sentiments brought about through changes in mode.

Amy demonstrated the sort of enjoyment in her playing which comes with a developing maturity. She had an excellent left-hand which was notable in the agility of her Alberti bass. She allowed the music to breathe, especially at the ends of phrases and sections. Her octave technique was solid. She demonstrated subtlety of dynamic inflection in the phrase endings. Her hands came together to form a unified ensemble.

Before the trio’s performance of the G major String Trio, Du Plessis gave another valuable introduction to the work, mentioning the role of the key of G major as a unifying element in the concert as a whole, both with regards to the works performed by the Luo siblings and also concerning the G major String Trio. In the Adagio – Allegro con brio, there was a sense of having time with the phrases. This was juxtaposed against rousing flourishes in the cello. The performers conveyed Beethoven’s Oriental spirit in the famous minor section. Macheva’s long phrases carried the music throughout with her characteristic attention to the clarity of intonation and articulation. Du Plessis’s rich tone played off Macheva’s clarity. There was good attention throughout to small effects. There was expansiveness in the climactic sections. Macheva led the ensemble through her understanding of the music. She did not let the phrases get lost in the thicket of the ensemble. The instrumentalists demonstrated an understanding of the emotive power of the underlying harmonic framework. In the Adagio ma non tanto e cantabile, the same sense of presence on the part of the instrumentalists seen throughout the concert was evident. This sense of sentiment was most evident in the slower and less active sections. In the Scherzo. Allegro - Trio, the ensemble took Beethoven’s typically sparse and simple motive material and fashioned from it, and most especially the spaces between it, musical sentiment. The instrumentalists realized that this is not done through forced passion. In the Presto, there was very good cooperation between the violin and the viola. The music was incredibly challenging technically and the trio demonstrated the importance of showcasing more sophisticated chamber works in Durban. – Dr Martin Goldstein

For more information on the Lupa Trio, contact Aristide Du Plessis on watsapp 076 159 5771 or email