national Arts Festival Banner

Saturday, March 24, 2012


Pallavi Mahidhara

A young Indian pianist from the United States gave an astonishing display of keyboard virtuosity when she played Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in the Durban City Hall with the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra.

Pallavi Mahidhara, 24, was born in America of Indian parents, grew up in Bethesda, Maryland (not far from Washington), and holds dual citizenship of the U.S. and India. She made her debut with an orchestra at the age of ten and has since become a seasoned veteran of the concert stage.

The Prokofiev concerto, written in 1921, is exceptionally difficult and physically taxing. Pallavi is a slender, elegant young woman but she generated tremendous power as she delivered Prokofiev’s splendid music, most of it fast and furious. One has become used to a high standard of expertise from pianists, but this was something else. And she remained a calm and composed figure throughout. She richly deserved the ovation she received at the end.

This was the final concert of the orchestra’s summer season, and a festive atmosphere was created at the outset with an outstanding performance of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio espagnol. The visiting American conductor Daniel Boico was obviously happy with the results of his efforts; he insisted on the orchestra sharing the prolonged applause of the audience.

An all-Russian programme was completed with Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances, another brilliantly orchestrated work that has been played three or four times here in recent years.

This concert was the last for the principal clarinettist, Ian Holloway, who is retiring after playing with the orchestra for 29 years. It was entirely appropriate that he should have the first say in the Prokofiev concerto, which opens with a quiet melody for the solo clarinet. - Michael Green