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FRIENDS OF MUSIC: ANZEL GERBER (article first published : 2007-04-26)

This recital in the Durban Jewish Centre was the third appearance for the Friends of Music by the Pretoria cellist Anzel Gerber. She has been outstanding in the past, and she seems to get better all the time. In partnership with the Greek Cypriot pianist Manolis Neophytou she presented a programme of rarities which gave great enjoyment from start to finish.

These are both quite young performers --- Manolis Neophytou is 30 and Anzel Gerber about the same age --- but they brought to their playing not only high technical skill but also an impressively mature artistic approach. Shostakovich’s Sonata for cello and piano Op.40 is a difficult work for players and listeners but the performance here was so committed and intense that it captured the unwavering attention of the audience.

Shostakovich’s music is generally rather bleak, which is understandable, considering the political milieu in which he lived, Russia from 1906 to 1975. But it is also powerful and compelling and moving, and this sonata reveals a wide range of moods and emotions, from a solemn lyricism to the violent rhythmic drive so often associated with this composer’s music.

The sonata is in four movements and runs for about 25 minutes. The cellist produced a beautiful tone in its pensive moments and a fiercely accurate technique in the more vigorous passages, such as the remarkable second movement , with its hints of church bells amid the savagery.

At the piano Manolis Neophytou was controlled, poised and admirable. He is earning a substantial reputation in Europe, and it is easy to see why. Incidentally, neophyte means in English a novice, religious or otherwise, but this pianist is no novice; he is experienced and accomplished.

The other main work on the programme was Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata, written originally for the arpeggione, a six-stringed instrument that was a kind of cross between a guitar and a cello. The arpeggione did not last long but this sonata did, the arpeggione part transferred to cello or viola. The slow movement in particular contains some of Schubert’s most beautiful music.

Two lighter works completed the concert: Tchaikovsky’s Pezzo Capriccioso Op 62, a capricious piece if you like, and a Humoresque written by the great Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich.

The informative programme notes referred to Tchaikovsky as “one of Russia’s most prolific composers”. Surely the correct description is “Russia’s greatest composer”. Or am I being politically incorrect?

The evening’s prelude performer, funded by the National Lottery Distribution Trust, was yet another gifted young violinist with eastern origins, 12-year-old Yea kyung Kim from Durban Girls’ College.

She showed fine technique and a real insight into the music as she played a deceptively difficult gigue from a Bach Partita, for unaccompanied violin, and, accompanied by Gerhard Geist, the one-movement Concerto in A minor by the nineteenth century Belgian composer Jean-Baptiste Accolay. - Michael Green




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