Saturday, April 9, 2011

Loboe and New Music in South Africa

This week we presented a concert of contemporary chamber music, including the world premiere of American composer Hannah Lash’s piece for the solo Loboe, Silvers. What made this a unique experience was that the concert almost didn’t happen due to a combination of increasingly violent riots and strikes at the University of KwaZulu-Natal campuses last weekend. Indeed, Durban is not immune to academic budget cuts, though the official reasoning from the student-base was never completely made clear in the papers covering the story. What was made very transparent to us on the day of the concert was that after a weekend of rubber bullets and protesting, about half of the University staff was on strike and the concert hall management could not guarantee that we would even have an audience, should we choose to go ahead with the performance.

Well, the threat of a small audience is hardly a set-back for new music people. We preceded anyway, considering the concert involved three other members of the KZN Philharmonic and rescheduling would have been a nightmare. As long as there was no immediate threat of tear gas at the concert, we were on.

Despite all of the drama over the weekend and that morning, we had a good turnout of University students, orchestra colleagues and other guests. There were several people who later said that they could really hear the distinct timbre of the “low-A”, especially as it is featured in the ending of Hannah Lash’s work. A few words were said about each piece and the program was as follows:

Sylvia by Moerane/Blake
Violeta Osorhean, Violin and David Plylar, Piano

Partita Canonica by Hofmeyr
David Cohen, Clarinet

Phantom Vignettes by Plylar
Violeta Osorhean, Violin and David Plylar, Piano

Skirmish by Plylar
David Cohen, Clarinet, Alison Lowell, oboe and David Snaith, viola

Silvers by Hannah Lash (world premiere)
Alison Lowell, oboe

Fractured Colloquy by Plylar
Alison Lowell, oboe and David Plylar, piano

Solace; A Mexican Serenade by Joplin/Plylar

My colleagues all performed beautifully and it was very enjoyable to work on contemporary music again with such fine players. It was wonderful to see so many curious audience members come back stage and ask questions about the works, how certain effects were notated, etc.
Durban is not exactly over-run with new music yet, but performing at a University is a good place to start.