Sylvia (2008)

Arrangement of Michael Moerane for oboe (or flute or violin or birbyne) and piano

Dedicated to Eunice Basson


Duration: 3 minutes


First performance: Sunday 2 November 2008; ZK Matthews Hall, Unisa Muckleneuk Campus, Pretoria, South Africa; Kobus Malan oboe, Michael Blake piano.

Programme note

There could be a good case for describing Moerane as a forerunner of musical postmodernism in South Africa. The popular SATB a cappella song Sylvia validates such a notion very well. It was composed in 1968 – coincidentally the year of the riots in France which significantly affected many spheres of life, and the year that Luciano Berio composed his masterpiece Sinfonia whose second movement is a now classic example of musical deconstruction. While Sylvia yields up a simple ABA structure, the musical sources are strange bedfellows: A is lyrical with a nod to Mahler, while B suddenly bursts into ragtime; a brief bridge leads us back to a varied A and a short coda. The melody of the A section, which opens unusually with a downward octave leap, may well have been modelled on the fourth of Mahler’s Ruckert-Lieder – Liebst du um Schonheit (Lov’st thou but beauty). What other South(ern) African composer would have made such a bold juxtaposition of musics in a choral work during the mid-century! I made this arrangement of Sylvia for oboe (or flute or violin) and piano for the first ever concert of music by composers associated with the University of South Africa – faculty and students, past and present. Kobus Malan (oboe) and Michael Blake (piano) gave the first performance on 2 November 2008 in ZK Matthews Hall, Pretoria.


Chamber music