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Thursday, February 12, 2015


(Yi-Jia Susanne Hou)

A memorable recital by two unusually gifted musicians. (Review by Michael Green)

A Canadian violinist and an American pianist provided an evening of great enjoyment for a large audience when they played for the Friends of Music at the Durban Jewish Centre.

Yi-Jia Susanne Hou was born in Shanghai 37 years ago but her parents, both of them violinists, moved to Canada when she was three. She has developed a highly successful international career as a violinist, and the Durban listeners were given plenty of evidence of her abilities.

Bryan Wallick, who made his recital debut in New York 17 years ago, is a virtuoso pianist. More important, he is a mature player who puts respect for the music ahead of mere display.

In this recital both players were equal partners, as the composers intended. The programme was slightly off the beaten track, and the high point was undoubtedly the performance of Schubert’s Fantasy in C major.

This big work was written in 1827, a year before Schubert’s death at the age of 31. It opens with a mysterious tremolo passage and later uses a theme from one of Schubert’s songs, Angel of Beauty. It is long – at its premiere one critic left before the end – but there is not a dull moment. Susanne Hou and Bryan Wallick did full justice to this masterpiece, and the audience showed their appreciation with prolonged applause.

Two works by Brahms, the Scherzo in C minor and the Violin Sonata No. 3 in D minor, completed the “serious” part of the programme. Both were played with high technical skills and admirable balance and understanding between the two players.

In lighter vein we had Masks, Jascha Heifetz’s arrangement of music from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet; a solemn piece called Adoration by the contemporary Canadian composer Mychael Danna; a little tune by Susanne Hou herself called Taste of Canada, short and sweet; and the well-known Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso by Camille Saint-Saens.

This was a memorable recital by two unusually gifted musicians.

The Prelude Performer of the evening, supported by the National Lottery Distribution Fund, was a young trumpeter, Celi Ngemi, a student at the Durban Music School. Accompanied at the piano by Ann Muir, he gave a confident and accomplished performance of music from a trumpet concerto by Johann Hummel (1778-1837). - Michael Green