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Tuesday, September 22, 2015


(Review from the Hilton Arts Festival from Keith Millar)

Saturday was a cold, wet day at the Hilton Arts Festival. So there could be few better ways to warm the soul than to listen to some exquisite piano music played with inspiration and precision by one of South Africa’s most prolific and versatile concert pianists, Christopher Duigan.

Despite the inclement weather, Duigan attracted a reasonable crowd to his Music Revival concert at the Hilton College Chapel. While this venue can be a little uncomfortable with its side-on seating it is, with its reverberant stone walls and high vaulted ceiling, acoustically very pleasing.

Duigan delivered a varied programme which was much to the liking of the audience.

He started with a selection of three of the over-500 Sonatas composed by Italian master Domenico Scarlatti. These proved to be full of vigour and animation as Duigan showed remarkable finger dexterity despite the chill in the air.

The main work on the programme was Ludwig Von Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 17 in D Minor, also known as The Tempest. In three movements this powerful work, like the storm it is named for, displays a variety of moods, from peace to turmoil. It is a challenging work for any pianist but Duigan was more than equal to the task and performed the intense piece with skill and aplomb.

Duigan recently returned from a trip to Eastern Europe during which he visited Warsaw, the birthplace of Frederic Chopin. Chopin is revered in this city and Duigan seems to have drawn inspiration from this as he gave a wonderfully dramatic performance of the composer’s robust Polonaise in F Sharp Minor OP. 44.

The final work on the programme was Ondine from French composer Maurice Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit. It is based on a poem about a water nymph who sings to bystanders to seduce them into visiting her kingdom deep at the bottom of a lake.

As is usual at his Music Revival concerts, Duigan addressed the audience between items and gave them insight into the composers and their music which was to be performed.This certainly adds to the enjoyment and understanding of the concert.

In Concert with Christopher Duigan offered a first rate, and very enjoyable, start to the classical music component of this year’s Hilton Arts Festival. – Keith Millar