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SERGEY OSTROVSKY & DROR BIRAN (article first published : 2007-05-31)

A connoisseurís programme of sonatas for violin and piano drew a sizeable audience to the Durban Jewish Centre for this recital by two distinguished young musicians from Israel.

Sergey Ostrovsky (violin) and Dror Biran (piano) had both appeared in the previous ten days with the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra, making a big impression in concertos by, respectively, Sibelius and Mozart. In their recital they showed an admirable rapport and interpretative insight.

They opened with one of the most delightful works in the entire repertory, Beethovenís Sonata in F major, Op. 24, the Spring Sonata. This is Beethoven in a relaxed and humorous mood, but the evidence of his unique genius shines throughout the four-movement work. The players performed with impeccable technique, love and dedication. Dror Biranís piano playing was, I thought, unusually forceful for a work as lyrical and song-like as this, and I wondered whether he should not have had the lid of the piano half closed instead of fully open.

Be that as it may, the performance in general was splendid, marred only by the noisy tread of a member of the audience who decided to walk out, and then back again, half way through the Adagio movement, earning a rebuke from the platform by the violinist.

Maurice Ravelís Sonata for Violin and Piano in G major is a landmark of twentieth century music and it still sounds very modern even though eighty years have passed since it was first performed in Paris. It is a fascinating work, cool and elegant, with a remarkable second movement called Blues. Ravel was interested in the jazz of the period, and here he produced a kind of sophisticated version of the rhythms and melancholy mood of the old New Orleans Blues.

The sonata bristles with technical difficulties for both players, and these were surmounted with great skill.

Brahmsís Sonata in G major, Op. 78 is a lovely mellow, dreamy work from the composerís mature years, with subtle integration of violin and piano and a deeply romantic and rather mysterious slow movement. All of which was very much to the taste of the players and the audience.

By way of an un-programmed bonus Sergey Ostrovsky gave a beautiful performance of a Bach sonata for unaccompanied violin, poised, balanced and totally absorbing.

The eveningís prelude performer, funded by the SEM Charitable Trust, was a young soprano, Nomveliso Nocuze, who has been trained by Colleen Philp of Durban. Accompanied by Andrew Warburton, she sang a song by Richard Strauss, an aria by Puccini and a Negro spiritual, and displayed a strong true voice and a good stage presence, especially in the spiritual Heís got the whole world in his hand. - Michael Green




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