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Wednesday, March 4, 2009


(Pic: Alexej Gorlatch)

Highly rewarding recital from brilliant pianist for Friends of Music on March 3. (Review by Michael Green)

On March 3, Friends of Music presented a highly rewarding recital by Alexej Gorlatch in the Durban Jewish Centre: a brilliant pianist, a well-chosen programme, and a sizeable audience consisting largely of new faces seldom if ever before seen at Friends of Music concerts.

Alexej Gorlatch comes from Kiev in the Ukraine, and at the age of 21 he is establishing himself on the international concert circuit. He is a pianist of exceptional technical powers, and in his general approach to music he shows a maturity beyond his years.

This was clear from the first two items on his programme, Mozart’s Fantasia in C minor, K. 475, and Beethoven’s Sonata in A major, Op. 101. The pianist’s poise and self-control on the platform were reflected in his playing of the music. The Beethoven was particularly impressive. This is a complex and difficult work, technically and interpretatively, the first of Beethoven’s last five great piano sonatas. It is a diffuse composition, introspective and intimate, and difficult to bring off in performance, and Alexej Gorlatch did so with great success.

He drew full value from the reflective lyricism of the first movement, and the weight given to the different voices in the final fugue was wholly admirable.

The audience recognized the quality of the performance and gave the pianist an ovation.

Virtuosity of a very different kind was displayed in Chopin’s famous Polonaise in A flat major, Op. 53. This is a great work, and one that is deservedly famous. Alexej Gorlatch gave a dazzling performance, the technical fireworks delivered with great aplomb. The left-hand octaves in the middle section were taken with awe-inspiring speed, and the rich sonority of the piece as a whole was fully realised.

More music from the romantic era came with Schumann’s Fantasiestucke Op. 12, eight “fantasy pieces” that are among the composer’s finest and most imaginative works for piano.

And, by way of complete contrast, Alexej Gorlatch played five pieces composed in 1926 by Bartok, the set called “Out of Doors”.

The evening’s Prelude Performer, funded by the National Lottery, was Wendy Moshutli, soprano, who comes from the Northern Cape and is studying at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. An attractive, slender figure, she gave unusually good performances of arias by Mozart and Handel and of Schumann’s beautiful Widmung (Dedication). She has a strong voice, accurate intonation, and a pleasantly composed stage presence. And in the three widely differing items she showed a good sense of style. - Michael Green