Clarinettist, Junnan Sun, to perform at the Hilton Arts Festival


Junnan Sun. Photo: Andreea Tufescu Photography.

CLARINETTIST, Junnan Sun, will be joining ‘Maritzburg pianist, Christopher Duigan, and cellist, Aristide du Plessis, to perform a Beethoven-themed concert at the Hilton Arts Festival, writes’s Estelle Sinkins.

The three musicians will be playing Beethoven’s Trio in B-flat Op. 11 at 4 pm on Sunday, September 18 in the Hilton College Chapel as part of the Music Revival series.

The work was written by Beethoven in 1797 at the request of Joseph Beer, who considered it an insufficiently flashy vehicle for his talents and may never have performed it.

Beethoven used a melody drawn from Joseph Weigl’s opera L’Amor mariner in the variations of the finale. The tune was all the rage in Vienna at the time, to the point where it was hummed and whistled in the city’s streets, and gave the trio the nickname “Gassenhauer” (street tune).

Sun said that one of biggest challenges faced by a clarinettist in playing the work was to make a modern instrument sound like a period one.

“Beethoven loved the clarinet,” he said. “He was also one of the first composers to introduce the instrument to the orchestra.

“But the clarinet in his time was very different, with only eight keys on the instrument in comparison to the modern clarinet which sometimes have 18 keys. The sound of the period clarinet is also very different from the modern clarinet. I would say the period clarinet sounds much brighter and is also more effortless to play. It almost sounds like a recorder – in a good way. This piece must have been an incredibly difficult task for any clarinettist at that time.”

Beethoven and Brahms are among Sun’s favourite composers. “I still remember listening to Beethoven’s Violin Concerto when I was 10 and just completely fell in love with it,” he said.

“His music formed a big part of my development as a musician. What I really like about Beethoven is his raw energy and the power in his music. I think anyone who has listened to the beginning of his 5th Symphony will understand what I mean.”

Sun will also perform the Clarinet Sonata by Camille Saint-Saëns, which he describes as a ‘lovely’ piece of music.

“I grew up playing it! I love how simple and beautiful this work is. Music can get very complex and psychological, but this work is just pure simplicity and calming,” he added. “It was composed for a clarinet competition at the Paris Conservatoire. This work really challenges the clarinettist in terms of intonation, breath control, tone colours and technique. At the same time it also needs to be incredibly simple and effortless. Wish me luck!”

Sun cannot wait to share his music with festival-goers at Hilton, saying: “I am extremely excited to play this concert with Chris and Aristide at the Hilton Chapel. This will be my first time playing at the festival.

“I attended the festival as an audience member last year and it really made a big impression on me. I was overwhelmed by the amount of activities going on … you will never be bored! I also love the different varieties of art and music being presented in this festival, it is just fantastic!”

Tickets for the concert are R120. To book email

There are three other concerts in the Beethoven series at the Hilton Arts Festival. In the first recital, Joanna Frankel and Duigan will be performing Beethoven’s Violin Sonata in A Op.47 ‘ Kreutzer’ and Sonata in A major by Belgian-French Cesar Franck at 8 pm on Friday, September 16.

In the second concert, at 4 pm on Saturday, September 17, Duigan will be joined by the KZN Philharmonic Quartet to perform elections Mozart’s Concertos, in C major K415, and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 3 in C minor.

And at 10 am on Sunday, September 18, Duigan will perform three sonatas from the canon of Beethoven’s 32 Piano Sonatas.

To book for the concerts email

For more information about the concerts and the Hilton Arts Festival in general, log on to, like the Facebook page: Hilton Arts Festival or follow the festival on Twitter @HiltonFest.

Inquiries: 033 383 0126/7 or email


CHINESE clarinettist Junnan Sun currently holds the principal clarinet position in the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra.

He moved with his parents to South Africa in 2003 and obtained his BMus (Hons) at the University of Pretoria under the tutelage of Lizet Smith in 2011. He continued his studies at the Royal College of Music (RCM) in London where he studied with Michael Collins, Richard Hosford and Janet Hilton, obtaining a Masters of Performance (specialising in Orchestral Studies) with distinction.

As an orchestral musician he has worked with conductors Vladimir Ashkenazy, Sir Roger Norrington, Wolfram Christ and Daniel Raiskin amongst others.

He has performed solo and chamber music recitals at the Berlin Konzerthaus (Germany), the Royal Albert Hall (UK), the Royal Festival Hall (UK), Cadogen Hall (UK), the Amaryllis Fleming Concert Hall (UK), and St. Paul’s Cathedral (UK) – as well as the Endler Hall in Stellenbosch, the Durban City Hall, the Linder Auditorium and the UNISA Enoch Santonga Hall.

Sun has appeared as a soloist with the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra, the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, the RCM Philharmonic Orchestra, and the South African National Youth Orchestra.



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