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JULIEN CHAUVIN & FRANCOIS DU TOIT (article first published : 2004-11-28)

Julien Chauvin, the young French violinist who created a big impression with the Mendelssohn concerto in the Durban City Hall, was joined in a recital for the Friends of Music on November 16 by an equally gifted performer, the South African pianist Francois du Toit. They presented a programme of French music dating, in time of composition, from 1877 to 1932, all relatively “modern” and almost certainly most of it unfamiliar fare for the audience in the Durban Jewish Centre.

This esoteric programme could have been heavy going. It was not. It was a delight, thanks to the committed skills and insights of the two players. Olivier Messiaen’s 1932 Theme and Variations set the tone for the evening. Messiaen is something of an acquired taste, and not many listeners have yet acquired it. But he must have made a few converts at this recital, thanks to the quality of the performance. The complexities of the work were expertly unveiled, never more so than in the huge climax near the end which eventually dies away to a murmur.

Erik Satie was an oddball by any reckoning. Chauvin and Du Toit played three of his miniatures written as a kind of echo, almost a parody, of Bach’s music. Witty, amusing and slight.

Gabriel Faure’s Sonata No. 1, Op. 13 was probably the best-known work on the programme. This is a lovely sonata, full of subtle modulations and unexpected harmonies. Faure is a master whose excellence has yet to be widely recognised. Perhaps this beautiful rounded performance of the first violin sonata will help spread interest in his music.

Ravel’s well-known gypsy-flavoured Tzigane and two fairly short sonatas by Debussy and Darius Milhaud completed the programme, Debussy’s composition being the more significant. This sonata was written in 1917, a year before Debussy’s death at the age of 56. Inevitably. it has a certain poignancy, but it also has a supremely French elegance and irony.

The evening’s prelude performers, promising young artists whose appearance is sponsored by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, were Sarah Pudifin and Carole Lundgren (violins) and Christopher Cockburn (piano). They played a compact three-movement Concerto Grosso in A minor by Vivaldi, in what turned out to be a very attractive and accomplished performance. Christopher Cockburn, who is from the University of KZN, arranged the piano part from the original score for small orchestra. Carole Lundgren is an exchange student from Denver, Colorado, and Sarah Pudifin is a law student and such a capable young violinist that, who knows, the law might lose out in the end. - Michael Green




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