Review: David Krakauer and Kathleen Tagg at Nederburg

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David KrakauerExperiencing a live performance from a master musician such as David Krakauer, whose every cell seems to pulsate with the music he performs, can only be described as extraordinary. And to see him in an intimate setting such as the chamber concert held at Nederburg Manor last night was little short of magical.

Known for his influence in rediscovering and reinventing the traditional Jewish music of Eastern Europe, David Krakauer’s clarinet took the audience on a journey ranging from classical Brahms pieces to improvised modern Klezmer. He was accompanied by South African pianist Kathleen Tagg, who is known for being a sensitive, insightful collaborative pianist. The New York-based duo had us in awe from the very first second, and I am still in awe of the immense privilege it was to witness such a passionate and varied performance in this noble, historical venue.

The musical evening felt almost more like a storytelling session. Krakauer spoke to the audience before every piece, explaining its origin and history and sharing little inside stories about the composers, cleverly creating an appreciation for the music before it was even played.

Krakauer plays his clarinet as if it is an extension of himself, in a method which is both remarkable and highly entertaining. From the first movement – a delightful piece by Janáček, which had the clarinet vividly depicting audible images of a forest scene, a leaping squirrel and birdsong – we were transported to a parallel universe, where music and pictures become one and the same thing. Debussy’s Première Rhapsodie, one of the most popular pieces for clarinets, showed off the instrument’s range of tone and emotionally expressive properties. The Brahms Sonata No 1 in F minor that followed was beautifully melodic and tuneful, and probably the only piece that evening that soothed the emotions rather than leading them in a gallop.

1kathleen taggAfter the interval, the music could be described as everything but harmonious – however, we were spoilt with an incredible performance of Klezmer and Jazz-inspired modern pieces. Both Krakauer and Tagg elicited astonishing tones from their instruments by what can only be described as unorthodox methods. Tagg used cloth and metal jewellery to manipulate the piano’s sound, and even stood up during her performance to pluck its strings, which had the audience in awe. Krakauer, regarded as one of the greatest clarinetists globally, blurred the lines between instrumental and vocal music by making his clarinet laugh, cry and sing in front of our very eyes. As if their talent wasn’t enough, both Krakauer and Tagg have a keen desire for the audience to “participate” in the performance, instead of simply to listen passively, with the result that the audience felt as elatedly exerted as the musicians!

On top of all of this the organizers made certain to look after the concert-goers in every aspect, from welcoming us with aperitifs, to providing snacks and champagne during the interval, and offering Nederburg wines and delicious canapés after the event.

I think I can safely say that everybody fully enjoyed last night’s concert – and I have a strong feeling that not one of the 80 or 90 people who were lucky enough to be part of the audience last night will ever look at a clarinet, or a piano for that matter, in the same way as before.

Marie Stinnes

David Krakauer and Kathleen Tagg performed at the Nederburg Manor House on 28 September 2014.

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