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FRIENDS OF MUSIC: WOLFGANG DAVID & FRANCOIS DU TOIT (article first published : 2005-10-14)

Arriving here more or less unheralded, the young Austrian violinist Wolfgang David showed himself to be an artist of the first rank in this recital by the Friends of Music at the Durban Jewish Centre with the distinguished South African pianist Francois du Toit.

Wolfgang David is the best violinist we have heard in Durban for a long time. In a programme ranging from Bach to Aaron Copland he played with power and authority and a magnificently full and accurate tone. He certainly did justice to the 1731 Guarneri violin which he plays, lent to him by the Austrian National Bank. And Francois du Toit contributed greatly at the keyboard. These are not works for violin accompanied by the piano. They were written for violin and piano, with the latter playing almost as important a role as the former.

Aaron Coplandís Sonata for Violin and Piano was new to me. Written about 60 years ago, it is still essentially ďmodernĒ in idiom but, like most of Coplandís music, it is quite accessible to ears hearing it for the first time. Dedicated to a friend who was killed while on service in the Second World War, it is serious music, with a degree of anguish, but it is not depressingly mournful. The most impressive section, in my view, is the calm, resigned slow movement, with the violin and piano playing almost unharmonised contrapuntal threads of melody. One sensed that the audience was totally absorbed by this music.

A change of mood came with Richard Straussís Sonata in E flat major, Op. 18, written in 1887-88, a late romantic work in the grand manner. Both players revelled in Straussís sweeping melodies, a kind of fingerprint of the composerís work throughout his long life. Again, the slow movement provided the most beautiful music and the most beautiful playing, with the violinist producing a tone quite thrilling in its depth and broadness.

The programme was completed with Bachís celebrated Chaconne in D minor for solo violin and a showpiece, a Fantasie Brilliante on themes from Gounodís Faust by the nineteenth century violin virtuoso Henryk Wieniawski.

The eveningís Prelude Performer, sponsored by the National Lottery Fund, was Brett Alborough, a 17-year-old pupil at Kearsney College, who played two items on the recorder: a sonata by Telemann and a popular Czardas. He showed himself to be a nimble and stylish performer and he was greatly assisted by the accomplished Bobby Mills at the piano. - Michael Green




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