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Thursday, November 20, 2014


(Andrew Warburton. Pic by Val Adamson)

Warburton dazzles in tribute to Brahms. William Charlton-Perkins’ Classical Notes (Courtesy of The Mercury)

It’s a safe bet anyone privileged to have been at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Howard College Theatre on Monday evening will remember the quite extraordinary level of music-making they heard for a very long time. The occasion was Durban pianist Andrew Warburton’s much-anticipated PHD piano performance recital.

His all-Brahms programme opened with performances of two celebrated groups of songs by the great 19th century German composer. The first of these, the Five Lieder Opus 105, published in 1888, were sung with grace and insight by soprano Vanessa Tait-Jones, whose silvery timbre and finely-projected instrument admirably suit these haunting pieces.

Thereafter, bass-baritone Richard Salmon delivered an honourable account of the renowned Vier Ernste Gesänge Opus 121, first performed in 1896. Salmon displayed a fine understanding and command of text, musical line and tonal nuance, as he followed in the footsteps of many great artists who have been closely associated with this deeply emotional cycle of songs.

Partnering the singers with unfailing sensitivity, passion and empathy, Warburton, who is renowned for his beautiful tone and big sound, ideally suited to the music of Brahms, brought to bear a lifetime’s experience as he demonstrated why he has long been a preferred official accompanist at the UNISA International Singing and Music Competitions in Pretoria (he is also a nominee in the category Best Music Director in this year’s Mercury Durban Theatre Awards).

After a short interval, the evening’s musical temperature soared to untold heights when Warburton returned to the stage with the KZN Philharmonic String Quartet for a performance of Brahms’s towering magnum opus, the hugely taxing Piano Quintet in F Minor opus 34. 

The teaming of Warburton with the KZN Philharmonic’s four lynch pin string players, namely concert master Joana Marie Frankel, associate concert master Violeta Osorhean as first and second violinists respectively, with principal violist David Snaith and principal cellist Boris Kerimov, proved an ideal match that was fully up to every hurdle with which this terrifying steeple-chase of a score abounds. Hearing five such front-rank musicians fully in accord with each other and at the service of this exhilarating music makes for something very special to store in one’s memory bank for a lifetime.

Music-lovers in the Durban region are indeed fortunate to be able to hear Brahms’s magnificent piece reprised this evening when the KZN Philharmonic String Quartet perform it at St Agnes Church in Kloof, partnered by our province’s other leading pianist, Steinway artist, Christopher Duigan . The Brahms work forms the centre-piece in a Grand Soiree programme celebrating the 17th birthday of Duigan’s Music Revival initiative which has gone from strength to strength over the years to the point where it now gives some 80 concerts a year.

Another work to be heard in this evening’s Grand Soiree is Boccherini's virtuoso Quintet for Guitar and String Quartet, in which the quartet is joined by South Africa’s premier classical guitarist, James Grace. Another highlight of the concert will be the exquisite Romanza from Chopin’s Piano Concerto No 1 in E minor Opus 11, as arranged for string quartet and piano. This bumper programme starts at 19h30. Tickets at R100 include refreshments at interval. To book call 031 764 2037 or email Secure parking is available.

Finally, note that another distinguished South African pianist, Jill Richards, will appear with tenor Peter Lurie in Friends of Music’s next recital at the Durban Jewish Centre, 44 KE Masinga Rd, on Tuesday (November 25) at 19h45. Presented in partnership with the Durban Holocaust Centre and the Embassy of Germany, this programme titled Passion and Prejudice: Forbidden Composers features music by Mahler, Schoenberg, Berg, Zeisl and Weill, each a major Jewish composer whose music was banned by the Nazis in Germany before and during World War II. Entrance is R50 payable at the door. Safe parking is provided. – William Charlton-Perkins