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Monday, March 1, 2021


(Left: Aristide du Plessis)

The Lupa Trio was not playing to impress. Rather, the players had confidence in the musical value of their playing. (Review by Dr Martin Goldstein)

The first Friends of Music concert of 2021 set the tone for a year of more sophisticated music. Chamber music requires a discerning ear and to this end, the Lupa Trio has certainly lent an air of subtlety to the local music scene. The Lupa Trio consists of three of the KZNPO’s most prolific instrumentalists, namely Ralitza Macheva on the violin, Annamaria D’Andrea on the viola and Aristide du Plessis on the cello.

While the trio presented the same programme towards the end of last year at St Thomas’ Anglican Church in Musgrave Road, their understanding of these works has only matured with more of an emphasis on ambience. The trio performed the first two trios from Beethoven’s op. 9, the String Trio in G major, op. 9 no. 1 and the String Trio in D Major, op. 9 no. 2.

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.

(Right: Annamaria D’Andrea)

In the trio’s performance of the Allegretto from the D Major String Trio, the various elements came together to create an overall aesthetic. D’Andrea produced a mellow sound on the viola and lent stability to the ensemble. The trio maintained a soft dynamic for an extended period. This allowed the passionate moments to manifest effectively and for the excitement to be maintained. The trio created a sound ambience instead of a collection of loosely strung-together motifs. The dynamics were in good taste and the playing was devoid of harshness. In the Andante quasi allegretto, there was a keen sense of idiom. The cantabile melodies were allowed to breathe. This was evident in the cello with several moments of considerable beauty. In the Minuet. Allegro - Trio, one sensed in the performers a genuine belief in their playing. In the Rondo Allegro, there was much energy and anticipation. The interplay between the instrumentalists was well-orchestrated. The ensemble reserved its full strength for the finale which allowed for a convincing ending.

(Left: Ralitza Macheva)

Before their performance of the G major String Trio, Du Plessis once again provided a helpful introduction to the work. In the Adagio - Allegro con brio, there was a poignant opening and a carefully-articulated melody. There was a keen sense of anticipation in the famous minor melody passage. The smaller motifs were allowed to assume meaning and to become significant. The whole entity made sense. The juxtaposition of the more melodious passages against those of greater motivic activity made the former more pleasing by way of contrast. In the Adagio ma non tanto e cantabile, there was a sense of Beethovian melancholy. The players were not playing to impress. Rather, they had confidence in the musical value of their playing. In the Scherzo. Allegro - Trio, there was a good understanding between the players. In the Presto, Macheva’s long, melodious bows were notable. The viola did much to stabilize the whole thing throughout and Du Plessis kept the momentum going.

(Right: Mingmei & Gongxuan Zhang)

The Prelude Performers were sisters Mingmei (14) and Gongxuan (12) Zhang, who have established themselves as two of Durban’s finest young pianists. Mingmei performed Etude op. 25 no. 2 by Frédéric Chopin. Gongxuan performed Remote Xianggelilia by Ma Jinfeng and Zhang Nan. They concluded their performance with a Duo, Dolly Suite op. 56 no. 1 (Berceuse & Mi-a-ou) by Gabriel Faurè.

In the Chopin, Mingmei displayed excellent agility and her playing was not too heavy. She projected a good, long phrase trajectory. She made effective use of agogic accents. She demonstrated the ability to change styles suddenly towards the end.

In the Ma Jinfeng & Zhang Nan, Gongxuan showed that her propensity is for the Romantic style and that she is a natural performer. She gave weight to the appropriate notes and had a natural sense of the idiom. Her hands came together seamlessly. In the Duo, Gongxuan’s natural romanticism manifested in the secondo part melody and Mingmei’s sense of timing was evident. In the second part of the work, the mood was lively with Mingmei’s natural sharpness of attack coming to the fore while Gongxuan lent stability to the ensemble. – Dr Martin Goldstein