WILLIAM CHARLTON-PERKINS REVIEWS A KNYSNA PLETT CONCERT SERIES EVENT
ARTISTS: GARY HOFFMAN (CELLO), FRANCOIS DU TOIT (PIANO)
VENUE: DUTCH REFORMED CHURCH HALL, KNYSNA
DATE: MONDAY 9 SEPTEMBER 2019
Monday's Knysna Music Society recital featured star American cellist Gary Hoffman(above), who teamed with ace Cape Town pianist Francois du Toit (below), in an evening of unalloyed delight.
Demonstrating a close rapport from the outset, the pair opened with Francois Couperin’s five-movement Pieces en Concert, written for Versailles, and performed here in a 1924 arrangement for piano and cello by the French cellist and composer, Paul Bazelaire. The graphically contrasting suite of short baroque dances, lightly touched in with deliciously held-back restraint by both musicians, proved an effective curtain-raiser.
More High Classical than Early Romantic in approach, Hoffman and du Toit’s patrician rendering of Beethoven’s much-loved Opus 69 Cello Sonata proved rather less extrovert in delivery that is often the case. I found it completely apposite to the composer’s so-called Middle Period. Their rendering of the miraculously hushed third movement Adagio cantabile was a thing of incomparable beauty, while the compelling illusion they conjured up throughout the famous work’s four-movement narrative, of being on a shared journey of adventure, drew the audience in, and more than compensated for any perceived lack of heft in the robust outer movements. All Beethoven’s characteristically explosive dynamic extremes were executed with evident relish by both players. If captured in a recording studio, repeated exposure to their reading would doubtless yield increasingly persuasive and rewarding listening pleasure.
There was no holding back in the second half. Maestro Hoffman’s all-stops-out account of the rarely-heard, bravura Suite for Solo Cello by the Spanish cellist-composer, Gaspar Cassado, a pupil of the legendary Pablo Casals, proved an exhilaratingly evocative sonic travelogue of his country’s regional dances. It brought the house to its feet, as did the final item on the programme, Mendelssohn’s dazzling Sonata in D Major for Cello and Piano Opus 58, with Hoffman and du Toit vying with each other in virtuosity and finesse. A magnificent climax to an experience of memorable music-making.