national Arts Festival Banner

Thursday, March 21, 2013


Programme of great music from Israeli-American pianist Yossi Reshef. (Review by Michael Green)

A programme of great music for the piano was performed by the Israeli-American pianist Yossi Reshef before an appreciative Friends of Music audience at the Durban Jewish Centre.

Yossi Reshef was born in Israel 40 years ago, has a doctorate in music from the  University of Southern California, now lives in Berlin, and has established himself in Europe and North America as a highly regarded pianist.

He opened his Durban recital with Beethoven’s Sonata in D minor, Op.31, No.2. This is often called The Tempest, because of a story by an unreliable witness, Beethoven’s admirer Anton Schindler. According to Schindler, Beethoven was asked about the “meaning” of the sonata and replied brusquely “Read Shakespeare’s Tempest”.

It is difficult to find any connection with The Tempest, but it is a splendid and exciting sonata, and Reshef played it with skill and insight.

A Chopin group followed: the Etude, Op. 10, No. 3, with the most beautiful melody Chopin ever wrote; the Minute Waltz, Op. 64 No 1; and the Ballade No 1 in G minor, Op. 23. This familiar music was presented in virtuoso manner, at high speed.  Impressive, but I prefer to hear it at slower tempi.

Schumann’s Davidsbundlertanze, Op. 6, brought forth the best playing of the evening, in my opinion.  Robert Schumann’s piano music is a little neglected these days, I think. It includes many of the best keyboard compositions ever written, and the Davidsbundlertanze is one of them. The title means Dances of the League of David (against the cultural Philistines) – Schumann was an incurable romantic – and the work consists of 18 short pieces. He marked each of these as representing Florestan or Eusebius, characters he had invented to illustrate the impetuous and poetic sides of his own nature.

The music is lovely, and Yossi Reshef explored all its subtleties and varied moods, producing a highly successful performance.

The recital ended with Debussy’s celebrated and beautiful Clair de Lune, moonlight.

The Prelude Performers of the evening, funded by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, were a very good brass quintet from the Durban Music School, playing music by Rossini, Bach and Gershwin.

The attendance at this concert may have been affected by events a few days earlier in Johannesburg, where a recital by Yossi Reshef was brought to an abrupt end by anti-Israel protestors, including many Witwatersrand University students. These people blew vuvuzelas and shouted outside, then burst into the concert hall and forced everybody, including the performer, to leave. One demonstrator banged on the keys of the Steinway piano. The university later issued an apology but emphasised “the diversity of ideas at Wits”.

As Madame Roland observed 220 years ago, during the French Revolution, “Oh liberty, what crimes are committed in thy name”. - Michael Green