Making beautiful music together

Having heard Magdalena de Vries performing solo on her marimba at Richmond House before, it was a delight hearing her collaborating with flautist Malane Hofmeyr-Burger as they performed a number of classics as well as more contemporary pieces at the latest Classics at the Castle concert.

AUDIENCE RAPPORT: Marimba player Magdalena de Vries, left, and flautist Malane Hofmeyr-Burger engaging with the audience during their Classics at the Castle concert at Richmond House on Sunday Picture: JON HOUZET

Both are accomplished musicians, performing regularly with the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra and on international stages.

The first piece they performed at Richmond House was Sonata in a minor by Belgian composer Jean Baptiste Loeillet, which comprised several parts – adagio, giga, adagio and allegro.

Hearing the two instruments together is unfamiliar, but calls forth auditory curiosity and then soothing enjoyment.

Commenting on the piece after they had played it, De Vries said it was from the baroque period of classical music.

“There was no marimba in the baroque period, so I’m playing second flute and sometimes you’ll hear me playing guitar, but never second violin,” she said, to laughter.

The second composition was by Japanese composer Michio Miyagi, called Haru no Umi (The Sea in Spring). The programme notes explained that Miyagi, who lost his sight when he was eight years old, started studying the koto, a stringed wooden instrument which is the national instrument of Japan. He wrote his first composition at 14, and by 18 he had become a recognised master of the instrument.

When De Vries and Hofmeyr-Burger started playing, the melody was immediately recognisable as Japanese. There was a wonderful interplay between the flute and marimba.

A more recent work by Argentinian classical guitarist Maximo Diego Pujol was next. Pompeya from Suite Buenos Aires has its foundation in the tango. De Vries said it was composed for flute and guitar, so she was playing the guitar part on her marimba.

“Although the marimba and guitar are very different, the character of the guitar translates well to marimba,” she said.

“In chamber music a lot of communication has to be non-verbal. But in pieces like the last one, we don’t want to follow each other. We have to be each other’s echo – when one plays loud the other will play soft and vice versa,” De Vries said.

The fourth piece was a beautiful classical piece by Joseph Haydn, appropriately called Echo.

The final piece on the programme was Hungarian composer Bela Bartok’s Rumanian Folk Dances. It ended on a crescendo, to loud applause.

Of course, the audience wanted more, so De Vries and Hofmeyr-Burger returned to the stage for an encore.

“We always have to pretend not to be ready, but we always are ready,” she said, to the audience’s appreciative laughter.

They played an eminently familiar piece, Mozart’s Rondo alla Turca – a fun way to end the concert.

The wide variety of classical genres encompassed by these two gifted musicians made for a most satisfying afternoon of music appreciation.

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