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Saturday, May 30, 2015


(Awadagin Pratt)

Encore a vivid demonstration of the power and strength of Awadagin Pratt’s playing. (Review by Michael Green)

Romance was in the air for the second concert of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra’s winter season, in the Durban City Hall.

The programme presented two compositions relating to Romeo and Juliet plus a lyrical Mozart concerto, and the soloist was a very interesting and recently married American pianist. On the podium was the orchestra’s resident conductor, Lyk Temmingh.

Members of the Bochabela String Orchestra from Bloemfontein joined the orchestra, having been given the opportunity of playing in top-class company.

The concert opened and closed with the works inspired by Shakespeare. The first was the Queen Mab Scherzo from the Romeo and Juliet Symphony by the French composer Hector Berlioz (1803-1866). Queen Mab is not a character in the play. She is a fairy queen who inspires thoughts of love in men and is described in vivid detail by Romeo’s friend Mercutio.

Berlioz’s brilliant score captures exactly the spirit of this fanciful creature, and the orchestra gave a delightful account of it.

At the end of the concert came Sergei Prokofiev’s orchestral suites from his 1935 ballet Romeo and Juliet, dramatic, grand and sensual music.

The American Awadagin Pratt was the soloist in the central work of the evening, Mozart’s piano concerto No. 23 in A major, K. 488. This pianist, who is a professor of music in Cincinnati, Ohio, is a distinctly unusual personality. At the age of 49 he has established a big reputation as a pianist in the United States, Europe and Japan. He is also a first-rate violinist. He is a very good tennis player and is interested in chess and wine.

He is known for his unconventional clothes when appearing in public; he says his intention is to break down barriers between the audience, the performer and the music. And he was married two years ago to Jill Meyer, a lawyer, also from Cincinnati.

He gave a lovely, expressive performance of the Mozart concerto, one of the master’s most beautiful works. It is a ceaseless flow of melodies, and Pratt’s caressing tone and strong technique made this a memorable interpretation, with Lyk Temmingh and the orchestra as skilful and discreet partners.

Prolonged applause brought forth an unusual encore, a Nocturne for the left hand alone by the American jazz pianist Fred Hersch. This turned out to be a most attractive work, rather reminiscent of Chopin or Rachmaninov, and it was a vivid demonstration of the power and strength of Pratt’s playing, and his artistry. - Michael Green