MARITZBURG concert pianist, Christopher Duigan (above right), experienced a ‘profound musical connection’ with Spanish saxophonist, David Salleras (above left), when the two men met through mutual friend, Durban-based saxophonist Maxine Mathews in 2012.
While rehearsing for a series of concerts in South Africa, the talented musicians started chatting about repertoire and improvising Piazzolla tango numbers they both knew.
“I recognised within minutes this was someone I had a very profound musical connection with,” said Duigan. “It’s a surreal experience to finally find someone who ‘speaks’ your musical language so fluently and is in tune with your temperament!”
Salleras agrees, adding: “It is difficult to find that kind of connection with other musicians, that level of intensity. We both do a lot of projects, with different musicians, and of course it works – but sometimes, we find someone that we really have a strong feeling with and it’s easy to make things happen. That was what happened to us.”
Duigan, who created the popular Music Revival series and is a key driver behind the visits by the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra to the city for concerts, including tonight’s George Gershwin-inspired Rhapsody in Blue, is thrilled that two of his new works from Four Nocturnes will be played at the concert.
Asked whether he preferred playing or composing, he said: “I’m a novice composer really. I have no training or formal education as a composer. Creating music as I call it is a very new field for me. It is still a very fresh experience to share these pieces with an audience.
“Performing your own music, especially as my music is very personal, is very daunting, especially when you have had the music of some of the greatest geniuses of European civilisation running through your hands over the last 40 years.”
Salleras, whose compositions are performed the world over, believes each discipline has its merits. “I’m not really a composer,” he says, “I like to improvise with my instrument, and what I do is write on paper my improvisations, but it’s a big satisfaction when I play my music, or see other musicians play my music.”
As for what they have learned from each other Duigan says he is inspired by Salleras’s performance discipline and standard of commitment.
“He’s taught me to be self-assured in my music too,” he added. “Having one of the world’s leaders in classical saxophone playing promoting, publishing and requesting more of your music is very affirming.”
Salleras, meanwhile, says Duigan has been a good influence on him, adding: “He has the capacity to create different things: he has the ability to create music, play the most difficult works for piano and at the same time organise a tour around South Africa. This is because he has a big capacity of work and can focus on the things that really matter, something that inspires me a lot.”
Both men enjoy playing with the KZN Philharmonic. “Playing with any orchestra is amazing but with the KZN Philharmonic it’s something special as I have worked with these players for over 25 years,” says Duigan. “I have developed personal relationships with many of the musicians so it’s like a big group of friends really. It is also the most illustrious orchestra in Africa.”
The Nocturnes they will be performing at Rhapsody in Blue feature on Duigan and Salleras’s second album together. Titled Midnight Blue, the album is a follow-up to Indigo.
Duigan says of the work: “It is a varied album that takes you in and out of a central set of Four Nocturnes. It’s more serious and certainly intense but also different to our previous recording. I’m very proud of it.
“It was recorded as a demo in one afternoon which I was so pleased with after repeated listening that we decided to release it. It manages to capture something of a live spontaneity (including a few flaws) which is very rare and real.”
Salleras has arranged a concert tour with Duigan in Spain, something he has been keen to do since Duigan spent time in his country in February 2015.
“We and we did two little concerts,” he added, “and at one of these concerts the manager of the Giorquestra (Girona Symphonic orchestra) was very impress with our playing and Chris’ compositions. So, we started to speak about doing a tour in the north of Spain, near Barcelona and now it is finally happening.
“We will do three concerts with orchestra, two concerts with only Chris and me, and Chris will do two solo recitals. People are waiting to see him! One of the concerts it’s already full!”
Duigan is looking forward to the concerts, saying: “As a new composer I am honoured to have the KZN Philharmonic play two of my pieces in this local concert; but in Spain the orchestra concerts will include a full half of the programme devoted to my music. That’s incredible for me!
“The brief experience I had in Spain last year performing and also attending concerts in and around Barcelona was hugely moving. I saw how well concert halls, artists, and orchestras were supported by funding, in the media and in particular by the audience.
“It was a very emotional moment for me when I realised what a struggle (albeit a rewarding one) it is on a daily basis to play music, win people over and promote classical music performance in this country. It was quite overwhelming to see such recognition and level of reception at the performances I attended. I’m certainly looking forward to be part of that.”
MIDNIGHT BLUE ALBUM LAUNCH
THE launch of Midnight Blue, the new album by Christopher Duigan and David Salleras, takes place at ‘Casa Mexicana’, 35 Montgomery Drive, Athlone, Pietermaritzburg at 7.30pm on Tuesday, March 22. The album, which was recorded at the SABC studios in Durban, features eight new compositions including Conversations, Turning In, Midnight Chorale and Four Nocturnes (2015). Tickets are R150 which includes refreshments and wine on arrival. Booking is essential. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or SMS 083 417 4473. Safe parking is available.
UNMISSABLE RHAPSODY IN BLUE
THE music of George Gershwin takes centre stage when the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra takes to the stage of the Pietermaritzburg City Hall on Saturday, March 19 at 7.30 pm. Presented in association with Parklane SUPERSPAR, Rhapsody in Blue will feature solo performances by David Salleras (saxophone ) and concert pianist, Christopher Duigan (piano). The orchestra will be conducted by James Ross, director of orchestral activities at the University of Maryland in the United States. The programme includes: Porgy and Bess: A Symphonic Picture, Takashi Yoshimatsu’s Saxophone Concerto “Cyber Bird”, Op. 59 (1994) and the second and third nocturnes from Duigan’s Four Nocturnes (2015) for solo sax and piano with orchestra. Tickets are R130 (R120 pensioners, R80 scholars) and R200 for premier seats. Book at the Parklane SUPERSPAR Coffee Shop or phone Jennifer at 033 342 3487.