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Sunday, October 11, 2009


(Pic: Jonathan Oshry)

Thoroughly enjoyable and stimulating performance from Jonathan Oshry. (Review by Michael Green)

A larger audience than usual attended this concert in the Durban City Hall, attracted perhaps by an all-Russian programme and in particular by a pianist playing Rachmaninov.

It was not the Rachmaninov concerto, the second in C minor, but the composer’s Concerto No.1 in F sharp minor. And the pianist was not the usual highly competent virtuoso but, in this case, Durban’s own Jonathan Oshry, born and bred here and now a recognised major performer based in London.

This Rachmaninov concerto is an interesting work, written when the composer was only 18 and revised extensively by him 26 years later. It is typical of Rachmaninov, replete with melody and with a strain of melancholy tempered by the brilliance of the keyboard part. Rachmaninov admired Grieg’s music, and this concerto has certain resemblances to Grieg’s piano concerto in A minor, such as the opening salvo from the piano and the first movement cadenza, which is not unlike a big passage in the slow movement of the Grieg.

Jonathan Oshry, who had greatly impressed in a Friends of Music recital two days earlier, handled the difficult piano part with his customary calm demeanour while his fingers generated much fire and energy. He seems to me to be a pianist who is totally committed to the quality of the music he is playing, and as a result his performances have a sense of integrity and authenticity.

The orchestra was conducted by the ever perceptive and subtle Leslie B. Dunner, and the outcome was a thoroughly enjoyable and stimulating performance. Responding to prolonged applause, Jonathan Oshry gave a repeat of the encore he had given at his earlier recital, Liszt’s Feux Follets, Will o’ the Wisp, one of his Transcendental Etudes. This is one of the most difficult pieces in the entire piano literature, and Jonathan plays it with a keyboard technique so brilliant and effortless that one can only sit back and marvel.

The concert opened with The Enchanted Lake by Anatoly Lyadow (1855-1914), an enchanting piece indeed, a tone poem imbued with gentle impressionism. And in the second half the orchestra played Tchaikovsky’s Suite No. 3, Op. 55, a major work (it runs for about 45 minutes) but one that is seldom performed in concerts. It is melodious and attractive, and once again Leslie Dunner’s rapport with the orchestra produced the desired results. - Michael Green