national Arts Festival Banner

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


(Cristina Ortiz. Photo by Sussie Ahlburg)

Enthusiastic response acknowledges memorable recital from Friends of Music. (Review by Michael Green)

Cristina Ortiz, an authentic international celebrity, gave a memorable recital at the Durban Jewish Centre for the Friends of Music.

This Brazilian pianist, who is now based in London, has built an imposing reputation over the past 30 years. She has played with major orchestras and famous conductors in many cities of Europe, America and the East, and she is very highly regarded as a solo recital player and as a recording artist, presenting a repertoire that encompasses a particularly broad range of music.

In her Durban programme she included works by Mozart, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Brahms, her compatriot Villa-Lobos and another Brazilian composer, Guarnieri, and she was rewarded with an enthusiastic response from a large audience.

She opened with Mozart’s well-known Fantasie in D minor, K.397 and then moved to Mendelssohn’s Variations Serieuses. This set of 17 “serious” variations, written in 1841, is not played very often. It is a splendid work, of great variety and virtuosity, and Cristina Ortiz’s performance was a high point of her recital. She is a strong, passionate pianist with a formidable technique, and her playing of this Mendelssohn was sheer delight from beginning to end.

Then came four items from the second set, Op. 25, of Chopin’s Etudes. The word means “Studies”, a rather mundane description for wonderful music that is both poetic and brilliant. They were played here with great vigour and commitment.

After the interval Cristina Ortiz gave us five of Brahms’s late Intermezzi, introspective compositions which the composer described as children of his old age. Lovely music, beautifully played.

Finally, the pianist delivered some spectacular pieces from her homeland, Brazil. Two, characterised by a rich harmonic texture, were by Mozart Camargo Guarnieri (1907-1993). His parents must have been either reverent or ambitious about music; they named their four sons Mozart, Rossini, Bellini and Verdi.

Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) is Brazil’s most famous composer, and he was represented here by a slightly melancholy waltz and by a showpiece which was played by Cristina Ortiz with extraordinary brilliance.

As an encore she gave the first of Debussy’s two Arabesques.

The KZN Philharmonic Orchestra begins a new season of symphony concerts in the Durban City Hall on February 16, and the pre-concert lectures arranged by the Friends of Music and the KZNPO will be resumed at a new venue, 1st floor, Albany Hotel, Smith/Anton Lembede St, opposite the City Hall.

The lectures are from 18h15 to 19h00, ending in time to walk across the road to the City Hall concert, and tea, coffee and sandwiches are served from about 17h45. The charge is R30. I will be giving the first lecture, on music by Ravel, Lalo and Berlioz. - Michael Green