Concert Review: Schubert, Beethoven – Friends of Orchestral Music Soirée

Reviewed by Andrew Wilding

Magdalene Minnaar, Maria Tien-Du Toit, Francois du Toit, Patrick Goodwin, Paula Gabriel, Peter Martens, Roxane Steffen

Old Mutual House, Sunday 8 March 2015

Other works included Beethoven's "Appassionata" and Schubert's "Trout" Quintet, with Patrick Goodwin, Paula Gabriel, Peter Martens, and Roxane Steffen

Shepherd on the Rock from left: Francois du Toit, Magdalene Minnaar, Maria Tien-Du Toit

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Schubert – Shepherd on the Rock
Magdalene Minnaar (soprano), Maria Tien-Du Toit (clarinet), Francois du Toit (piano)
The alluring clarinet and piano opening was magical, instantly transcending thought, warmly welcoming one’s imagination, the perfect aperitif. Magdalene Minnaar’s soprano was exquisite, introducing the most beautiful golden thread into the sound. She has stunning dynamic range in her phrasing and amazing control at ppp. The Lied was composed after a request from a friend of Schubert who wanted a showpiece that would demonstrate the emotional range of her voice, but Schubert’s clarinet part is equally impressive. The trio was a jewel – a duet between two of our finest performers masterfully supported by one of our finest pianists.
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Beethoven – piano sonata No.23 in F minor (“Appassionata”)
Francois du Toit (piano)
This work surely ranks among the most challenging in the repertoire. Both technically and emotionally highly demanding, it must be a something like summiting Mt. Everest: never easy, no matter how many times you do it! With Beethovenian polarities of amiable reason and dogmatic fatality, du Toit climbed this pinnacle of sonatas tenaciously and with good pedal control, allowing his sound to accumulate and then suddenly disperse like a vanishing cloud. He demonstrated an incredible presence of mind which can only be attributed to a lifetime of dedication to performing professionally. His second movement was sublime, and the third embodied all the tension and agitation of a 34-year-old Beethoven that had us glued to our seats.

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Other works included Beethoven's "Appassionata" and Schubert's "Shepherd on the Rock, with Magdalene Minnaar, Maria Tien-Du Toit, and Francois du Toit

Trout Quintet from left: Patrick Goodwin, page turner, Francois du Toit, Paula Gabriel, Peter Martens, Roxane Steffen

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Schubert – Piano Quintet in A Major (“The Trout”)
Francois du Toit (piano), Patrick Goodwin (violin), Paula Gabriel (viola), Peter Martens (cello), Roxane Steffen (double bass)
I enjoyed the sumptuous rich sound of the room – the acoustics held the bass better than larger venues while leaving the higher frequencies unchanged, so that one heard very much more of the sound than usual. This was especially noticeable in the fourth movement, where the theme and variations on Schubert’s Lied “Die Forelle” gives each instrumentalist a chance to shine. I was reminded of the genius of the composer, uniquely placing a double bass in his piano quintet, where a second violin is the norm, and this is ingenious because it frees up the cello to perform delicious singing melodies in its tenor register. We really are spoilt by the talent in Cape Town’s musicians! The quintet was seamlessly synchronous, such a gorgeous lullaby in the second movement, an exceptional performance!

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Many of the performers from last week’s soirée are involved in the Stellenbosch Woordfees, details here: http://www.sun.ac.za/english/woordfees/components/klassiek

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