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Thursday, August 13, 2015


(Nina Schumann & Luis Magelhaes)

Pianists demonstrated complete mutual understanding as well as high technical skills. (Review by Michael Green)

The Stellenbosch-based husband and wife duo pianists Nina Schumann and Luis Magelhaes presented an unusual programme when they played for the Friends of Music at the Durban Jewish Centre.

We were given something completely different from the familiar two-piano music of Schubert, Brahms and many others. This time there was an arrangement of Bach’s celebrated Goldberg Variations and, in stark contrast, two modern American compositions.

Bach wrote his 30 variations about 270 years ago and they are named after the harpsichordist Johann Goldberg, who was apparently their first performer. The two-piano version is an arrangement by Josef Rheinberger (1839-1901), probably the only composer to have been born in Liechtenstein, the tiny country sandwiched between Switzerland and Austria.

These two-piano Goldberg variations are more flamboyant and romantic in style than the original; updated Bach, so to speak. Would old Bach have approved if he could hear them now? Quite possibly. He would certainly have been surprised.

The performance was excellent. Nina and Luis have been piano partners for 15 years and, predictably enough, they demonstrated complete mutual understanding as well as high technical skills.

The American composers on the programme were William Bolcom (born 1938) and John Adams (born 1947).

Bolcom, who has long been interested in popular music, was represented by a three-movement work called Recuerdos (Memories, or Reminiscences). The three pieces were inspired by Latin-American dance music, and they proved to be very attractive, clever, brilliantly scored, with jaunty rhythms and piquant harmonies.

John Adams’s Hallelujah Junction, named after a truck stop at the Californian border, was aggressively modern, loud repetitive banging at the keyboards, almost void of melody. The pianists extracted full value from its noisy virtuosity, and the audience responded with excited applause at the end.

The Prelude Performer of the evening, supported by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, was a young violinist, Blake Perryman. Accompanied by Dana Hardjiev at the piano, he played Dvorak’s famous Humoreske and a concertino by the 19th century German composer Oskar Rieding. - Michael Green