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SENGSTSCHMID/DU TOIT REVIEW (article first published : 2002-09-4)

Last night the Durban-based Friends of Music concert featuring Wolfgang Sengstschmid (violin) and Francois du Toit (piano):

The first, insouciant, singing phrases of Mozart’s G major violin sonata, K. 301 indicated clearly that this would be a recital of superior quality by both violinist and pianist, and so it turned out to be.

Wolfgang Sengstschmid is a young Austrian who has established a big reputation in Europe and the United States, and it is easy to hear why. In a widely ranging programme he extracted sounds of surpassing sweetness from the 1731 Guarneri violin which has been lent to him permanently by the Austrian National Bank. His technique is formidable, but it is the tonal quality of his playing that makes a wonderful impression. With the collaboration of Francois du Toit --- one of South Africa’s best pianists --- this was a recital to remember.

The Mozart, a lovely early work, was followed by Cesar Franck’s splendid Sonata in A major, a four-movement composition which gave both players the opportunity to demonstrate their virtuosity as well as their unerring musical insight. This was without question the high point of the evening.

The second half of the programme was devoted to shorter works of a generally lighter nature, and I had moments of wondering whether some Bach or Beethoven or Brahms would not have been better. Never mind, the Viennese Rhapsody by Sengstschmid’s great Austrian predecessor Fritz Kreisler provided great enjoyment, and another Kreisler piece, the famous Liebeslied, made a captivating encore.

Thanks to funding from the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, Friends of Music are able to present a young promising musician for a 10-minute performance at the start of each concert. Most of these do not warrant critical mention, but the singer who appeared at the start of this recital does. His name is Selby Hlangu and he is a mature baritone who has begun formal music studies at quite a late stage. In three items ranging from the 16th century to the 20th he showed poise, personality and a very good voice. A man to watch. – Michael Green




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