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Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Outstanding recital for Friends of Music. (Review by Michael Green)

The 26-year-old Russian pianist Alexander Lubyantsev was given a standing ovation by a large audience when he had completed an outstanding recital for the Friends of Music at the Durban Jewish Centre.

In a programme ranging from Haydn to Ravel he demonstrated a remarkable keyboard technique combined with an unfailing interpretative insight into the music he was playing. He comes from a musical family, to put it mildly; back home in St Petersburg his father, mother and four sisters are all professional musicians. No doubt his natural gifts were able to flourish in this environment.

He opened with a Haydn sonata, a typically original and vigorous work from this great composer, played with fluency and grace. One of Rachmaninov’s Etudes-Tableaux (study-pictures) followed, written in 1917, difficult to play and rather modern in style, possibly an eye-opener to those who tend to belittle the music of this Russian master.

Chopin’s Nocturne in C minor, Op. 48, No. 1, was another interesting choice on the programme. It is a big work, not typical of most of the 21 nocturnes that Chopin wrote. Here the pianist’s dynamic inflections between pianissimo, very soft, and fortissimo, very loud, were most impressive.

Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz No. 1 produced an astonishing display of virtuosity. This is one of the most difficult pieces in the repertory, but Alexander Lubyantsev’s calm keyboard demeanour was hardly ruffled as his fingers raced up and down and his hands delivered rapid octaves. A truly exciting performance that brought the audience to a pitch of enthusiasm.

Beethoven’s Sonata Op. 110, the 31st of his 32 piano sonatas, offered music of a very different kind. It was by some distance the major work of the evening, and here the pianist showed his good musical judgment, playing with deliberation and with restraint. The sonata’s brilliant final fugue was a triumph.

Finally, extreme virtuosity returned in Maurice Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit, three descriptive pieces that are exceptionally taxing for the pianist, especially the third, Scarbo, the impish dwarf. They were another huge success for the pianist and a delight for the audience.

The Prelude Performer of the evening, was the viola-player Emily Bishai, an American girl who is a pupil at St Henry’s Marist College in Durban. Accompanied by Bobby Mills at the piano, she played two movements of a sonata by Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767). - Michael Green

Friends of Music is funded by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund.