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

IN AND OUT OF TOWN (article first published : 2008-04-19)

Hats off to Friends of Music, for giving us a memorable evening last Tuesday (April 8) with Viva Baroque Cello at the Durban Jewish Centre. Cellist Hans Huyssen is a gifted and engaging artist, who wears his experience lightly of having worked abroad with period instrument luminaries such as Nicholas Harnoncourt.

Now resident at the University of the Free State, Huyssen runs the only music course in the country that teaches Early Music Performance methods. On the concert platform, he is generous in sharing his knowledge and his passion with those fortunate enough to encounter his approach to making music. We were treated to a fully informed simulation of how Bach and his contemporaries are believed to have sounded in performance. The delicate interplay of musical writing, particularly in the inner voices, comes wonderfully to life when this music is played on so-called ancient instruments or on reproductions of these.

A particular delight, the wonderful Bach items aside, was the delicious Boismortier piece, evoking the courtly elegance of mid 18th century Versailles, while the introduction of a contemporary composition, Huyssen’s own Ugubugh, cast a fresh perspective on the evening’s programme, marrying the then with the now.

This integration of scholarship with performance was something new to many in Durban’s live music audience though the Early Music movement has been developing internationally for a good three decades or more. Seasoned record collectors are well versed with the characteristics of Baroque instruments and one’s listening experience has come a long way from those querulous, scratchy sounds that dismayed us as they emanated from our speakers in the experimental 70s and early 80s.

A quibble about last Tuesday’s performance: the arbitrary switch back to the piano in the middle of the programme, to include Andrew Cruikshank’s Unisa exam composition, Kwela of Rhythm, was perhaps misguided. While one might welcome hearing this witty, provocative piece in an appropriate context, here, it proved a disconcerting mood breaker to ears attuned to the gentler sounds that preceded and followed it. Still, Cruikshank did fine things at the harpsichord in the rest of the programme, and cellist Piet Van Rooyen, one of Huyssen’s advanced students, gave stylish support too, in his role as continuo player. The evening’s mostly assured-sounding Prelude Performer, Michael Loubser, played three pieces for recorder by Sammartini, Teleman and Bowen.

FOM’s next concert at the Durban Jewish Centre is on May 6 at 20h45. This promises to be as rewarding in its way as last week’s event. The versatile American clarinetist Bryan Crumpler will appear with Cape Town pianist, Francois du Toit, a longstanding local favourite making an all-too-rare return to our circuit. Crumpler’s enthusiasms range from Klezmer (let’s hope we get some) to dixieland, jazz, and avant garde, his classical repertoire aside. The evening’s advertised programme ranges from Weber, Brahms, Poulenc, to Pavkovic, Williams and Rosenblat. Safe parking is provided and booking is through Computicket on 083 915 8000.

With the KZN Philharmonic currently out of the public eye between its Summer and Winter Seasons in the Durban City Hall, one might be tempted to assume this usually hard-pressed body of players are enjoying a bit of a break. Anything but, according to the Orchestra’s press office. This month and next, it’s all systems go with a gruelling schedule of education and development programmes. Last year some 35,000 schoolchildren were treated to education and development concerts at their schools as part of the KZNPO's contribution to the communities in and around KZN. Currently in the throes of more school concerts, the Orchestra appears to intent on breaking that record this year, zig-zagging daily between schools across the Greater Durban region.

Sandwiched between these metropolitan education concerts, running up to mid May, it’s off into the hinterland next week, as the Orchestra undertakes the first of its bi-annual country residencies. This takes place in Northern KwaZulu-Natal, and readers who are classical music enthusiasts in the Ladysmith and Vryheid areas will be able to hear live concerts in their towns, as part of week’s touring programme of community concerts and school workshops. For details, call the KZNPO’s information line on 031 369 9438.

Meanwhile, booking has opened for the KZNPO’s 2008 World Symphony Series Winter Season. This runs in the Durban City Hall each Thursday between May 22 and July 10. Regular guests Arjan Tien, Leslie B Dunner and Victor Yampolsky will share the season’s podium with resident conductor Lykele Temmingh.

Soloists to be profiled include Sabine Baird (flute), cellists Anzél Gerber and Alexander Suleiman, pianists Boris Giltburg, Anton Nel and Christopher Tainton, and harpist Linor Steinhausen. To subscribe, or to obtain a season brochure, call 031 360 0404.




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