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FRIENDS OF MUSIC: 5 OCTOBER, 2004 (article first published : 2004-10-6)

Franz Schubert wrote Winterreise, Winter Journey, a cycle of 24 songs, in 1827, the year before his death at the age of 31. In spite of perennial health and money problems Schubert was a happy sort of fellow, but not in these songs, which were inspired by poems by Wilhelm Muller. The mood is unrelievedly mournful, pathetic, lonely. This sounds rather dismal, but the music is of such high quality that in the end the spirit of the listener is uplifted rather than depressed.

That was the feeling I had, anyway, when listening to an outstanding account of these songs by the German tenor Christopher Genz, with Lara Jones at the piano, at the Friends of Music concert given in honour of David Tidboald, conductor laureate of the KZN Philharmonic. The concert/supper evening attracted about 170 people who showed great enthusiasm. Christopher Genz is a top-class tenor with many recordings to his credit. In this Schubert recital he showed absolutely true tone and a wide emotional and narrative range, from the strangerís sad farewell to the chilling picture of the barefoot organ-grinder.

Lara Jonesís impeccably sympathetic playing made an important contribution, and the performers were rewarded with prolonged applause, the audience sensing the artistic significance of the occasion.

Players from the KZN Philharmonic completed the eveningís programme with the help of two local piano stalwarts. Andrew Warburton (piano), Hristo Kardjiev (violin}, William Muir (viola), Boris Kerimov (cello) and Simon Milliken (double bass) offered Schubert in a very different mood, the utterly delightful Trout Quintet in A major. This lovely work is well known and the players did it full justice, with Mr Warburton in sparkling form, handling Schubertís tricky piano score with aplomb.

An early Beethoven Quintet for Winds and Piano, Op. 16 was played by Christopher Duigan (piano), Ian Holloway (clarinet), Vessela Minkova (bassoon), David Lloyd (oboe) and Katie Pryce (French horn). This is not Beethoven at his most inspired, except perhaps for the eloquent slow movement, but the playing was excellent, and it was good to see KZNPO players in prominent individual roles. For example, Katie Pryce produced some lovely sounds from the notoriously difficult French horn, and it is easy to see how her playing has in recent times had a beneficial effect on the orchestraís entire horn section.

The woodwind players matched her skills in their different ways, and the ever-reliable Christopher Duigan brought plenty of zest to the piano part.

The concert was in honour of Dr Tidboald, but the credit for it should go to Dr Vera Dubin,.chairman of the Friends of Music. With her usual energy and insight she organised a memorable evening. - Michael Green




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