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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

STATE OF GRACE (article first published : 2007-03-11)

With regret I missed last week's Friends of Music recital by the golden-voiced Korean soprano, Ji-Hyun Park. Few could have left her concert in the Durban City Hall on Thursday without a song resonating in their hearts.

The song was especially learned for the singer's South African audience, sung with humility and grace at the end of a marathon programme that would have taxed any singer on earth without Park's exceptional technique and stamina.

The song (available, incidentally, on a Mimi Coertse compact disc entitled Heimwee), was Eenvoudige Liedjie by Gerrit Bon, once a leading light on Durban's music scene, formerly a professor at UKZN's school of music, and a distinguished oboist with the KZNPO.

In the light of that heart-stopping encore, exquisitely accompanied by harpist Linor Steinhausen, I wondered what it would have taken to persuade the house this gifted artist deserved more than her short-lived applause. At several points she was stranded in sudden silence, still making her way offstage. Perhaps it was the heat wave.

Sitting upstairs in the first balcony, one felt tempted to invoke the famous punch-line of that inimitable music satirist, Anna Russell: "When she comes on, for goodness sake clap!" With Naum Rousine doing his singer proud, more energy would have been a small price to pay for the priceless Caro nome we heard, that unforgettable encounter with Lucia's demented grief, the deliciously saucy Glitter and Be Gay, a show-stopper in itself and an unbelievably generous encore.

This evening, Swiss conductor Emmanuel Siffert makes his local debut, conducting Frank's D Minor Symphony and Saint-SaŽns's Fifth Piano Concerto. This tour de force serves to celebrate the return of pianist Konstantin Soukhovetski, recipient of the 2006 Julliard William Petschek Piano Recital Award.

Responding to my allusion to an "overly reticent" Brahms's Piano Concerto No 1 last month, the KZNPO's press office has announced the appointment of Midlands Piano Services, to look after its Steinway concert grand piano in future. This means the much prized instrument will now be in the hands of Steinway enthusiast James Webster, who learned the business from his father, who in turn tuned pianos for 45 years. So here's looking forward to some unfettered Saint SaŽns this evening.

Next Tuesday (March 13), Friends of Music present the gifted Bushakovitz siblings, violinist Avigail, pianist Ammiel, and guitarist-trumpeter Benjamin, in recital at the Jewish Club. From 19h45 they will take us on an exploration of Bach, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Paganini, and other masters (call 082 789 5699). Then there's more Saint-SaŽns' on the cards next Thursday when Avigail appears as KZNPO's virtuoso soloist for the French master's thrilling Violin Concerto No 3. This follows her stepping into the Orchestra's spotlight in last year's Youth Concerto Festival.

Popular music initiative Music Revival celebrates 10 years of music-making with a series of performances at Durban's Botanic Gardens Visitors Centre on Human Rights Day, March 21. The day's varied programme exploits this highly conducive venue's fine acoustics, intimate audience placing and attractive setting. Each performance lasts approximately an hour. Booking is on 083 4174473. At 11h00, you can catch Christopher Duigan in recital, playing Beethoven's monumental last Piano Sonata No 32 in C minor Op 111 and music by Schubert.

Cape Town guitarist James Grace appears from 15h00 with several local musicians, in a rich variety of chamber works. He teams up with violinist Elena Kerimova in Piazzolla's Histoire du Tango with the Blue Velvet Quartet in Luigi Boccherini's Quintet for Guitar and String and plays music by Carl Maria von Weber and Castelnuovo-Tedesco with Christopher Duigan.

The Blue Velvet String Quartet bow at 17h00 with Mozart's Piano Quartet in E-flat K. 493, the beautiful Adagio from Borodin's String Quartet and Dvorak's flamboyant Piano Quintet with Christopher Duigan at the piano.

The final programme at 19h00 showcases the Six Violins of the KZNPO, here making their debut Durban performance. Star violinist Elena Kerimova leads the glamorous sextet of fiddlers in a lush programme of string arrangements including popular classics such as Ave Maria, Pachelbel's popular Canon, the ThaÔs Meditation and some rousing Ďworld music' numbers to finish.

Finally, a note that pianists Liezl-Maret Jacobs and Bobby Mills will give a free lunch-hour concert at UKZN's Howard College Theatre next March 12 starting at 12h15. They play arrangements of Schumann's fugues and canons for piano duet. Enquiries on 031 260 3353. Ė William Charlton-Perkins




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