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FRIENDS OF MUSIC: MOZART CONCERT (article first published : 2006-02-28)

The Sontonga Quartet, named after Enoch Sontonga who wrote the music of Nkosi Sikelelí iAfrika, and three soloists provided a Mozart evening of outstanding quality at this Friends of Music concert at the Durban Jewish Centre.

A large audience, about 150 people, were treated to two of the composerís piano concertos and his clarinet quintet. It was essentially a chamber concert, and I suppose a purist might demur at the inclusion of two piano concertos, which the composer scored for many more string players, plus horns and oboes. But Mozart did mark the parts for the wind instruments ad libitum, which seems to suggest that the concertos could be played on a smaller scale and in smaller surroundings than a concert hall.

I found the reduction from orchestra to string quartet perfectly acceptable, except in some passages where the piano outweighed the string tone, in spite of the pianist being placed (on the platform} behind the strings instead of in front. The point is that the audience were given expert performances of the concertos in a situation in which an orchestra could not be accommodated physically or financially. And everybody greatly enjoyed the experience.

The string players were Marc Uys and Waldo Alexander (violins), Xandi van Dijk (viola) and Eddie McLean (cello). Jonathan Oshry, one of our best pianists, was the soloist in the Concerto No. 12 in A major, K. 414, not a well-known work but one that is full of melody, grace and vigour. The pianist adopted quite a bold approach, I thought, to this music, playing with a brilliant tone and absolutely clear articulation in the rapid passages. A most enjoyable performance.

Another distinguished local pianist, Andrew Warburton, was the soloist in the Concerto No. 14 in E flat major, K. 449, a rather better known work with a delightful final movement in which Mozart shows very deftly that counterpoint need not always be serious and solemn. Again, the rapport between soloist and strings was first-rate.

Ian Holloway, principal clarinettist with the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra, was the soloist in the Clarinet Quintet in A major, K. 581, a work which amply demonstrates Mozartís special affinity for the clarinet. A fine performance of a gentle and beautiful composition, written in 1789, two years before Mozartís death at the age of 36.

The eveningís prelude performer, funded by the National Lottery, was Fae Evelyn, a second year music student at the University of KwaZulu/Natal. Singing Handel, Grieg and Mozart, she displayed a sweet and true soprano voice.

This concert was dedicated to the memory of Roseline Shapiro, who died last week and who was for many years a prominent and highly respected supporter of music in Durban. - Michael Green




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