Friends of Music’s recital on Tuesday (November 14) was preceded by a reception at the Durban Jewish Centre. This was in honour of Dr Vera Dubin, the association’s recently retired Chairperson, who founded and has run Friends of Music since 1983. In his address to Dr Dubin, longstanding associate and FOM member Teddy Pillay said 93-year old Dubin had made an immense contribution to the cultural life of Durban, both in keeping the music society alive and thriving, and through her fostering the careers of countless young artists over the years. The warm esteem in which she is held by the many members at Tuesday’s function was palpable. FOM’s management is now in the capable hands of Keith Millar, who has worked in Durban’s music and creative industry for the past four decades.
The evening’s duo recitalists, Joanna Wicherek (piano) and Tiaan Uys (clarinet), took a calculated risk in presenting a programme made up entirely of little-known 20th century repertoire, without sugaring the pill with any recognizable lollipops. Their risk paid off, as their cleverly chosen items, by and large, proved accessible to their listeners. Indeed, I thought the colourful opening piece, Suite Italienne by the French composer Eugène Bozza (1905 – 1991), bordered on easy-listening of the palm court, salon music ilk.
If the next piece, Wiatr od morza (Wind from the sea) by Polish composer Jacek Grudzien (b 1961), proved more of a ‘hard sell’, it was nonetheless enlivened by the integrity and vitality of its ever-alert interpreters, who were clearly at pains to get its descriptive qualities across without distorting the impact of sudden silences, punctuated by elliptical runs and leaps to convey the rise and fall of nature’s flow.
The duo had a ball when it came to performing the quirky four-movement Time Pieces by Polish-American Pulitzer Prize nominee Robert Muczniki (1929 – 2010), sending a delighted audience off to take a breather before launching the second half of the evening.
This opened with Dance Preludes by Polish master, Witold Lutoslawski (1913 – 1994). The light-hearted nature of its effectively juxtaposed five short movements was conveyed with panache, as were the idiosyncratically quirky charms of Poulenc’s Sonata for Clarinet and Piano. The duo’s programme concluded with a lively account of Four Hungarian Dances (No 2, 1 and 4) by the Hungarian composer, Rezso Kokai (1906 – 1962).
Lungelo Hlophe, the evening’s 18 year-old prelude performer - a Grade 12 learner at Lihlithemba Technical High School, who came second in the recent I Grandi Tenori Schools Opera Singing Competition - acquitted himself with a touching performance of the aria iJadu by Qinsela Sibisi. If his attempt at performing Don Octavio’s notoriously exposed aria, ‘Dalla sua pace’, from Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni proved less successful (it was sung at a cripplingly slow tempo), Hlophe nonetheless demonstrated that his beautiful lyric tenor voice is one to watch, as it clearly has the potential to take him far. He was accompanied by Bobby Mills.