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Thursday, October 15, 2015


(Vitaly Pisarenko - Pic by Yoshie Kuwayama)

A remarkable display of extreme piano virtuosity was given by Vitaly Pisarenko when he played for the Friends of Music at the Durban Jewish Centre.

A few days earlier this 28-year-old Russian pianist had created something of a sensation with his performance of Tchaikovsky’s B flat minor concerto with the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra. Word of his prowess had obviously gone around, and a large audience turned up for his solo recital at the Jewish Centre. They were not disappointed.

He opened with the most conventional item on his programme, Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata, Op. 13. This splendid work was played with immaculate technique and well-judged tonal contrasts, plenty of speed and vigour but no banging. The famous song-like middle movement produced smiles of appreciation in the audience.

Three pieces from Maurice Ravel’s Miroirs, mirrors intended to reflect the personalities of some of his artistic friends of a century ago, brought forth more brilliant playing. Ravel’s cool, elegant, sculptured music was delivered with immaculate technique. A high point was the celebrated Alborado del gracioso, the morning song of a jester, with effortless glissandi (sliding the fingers quickly over the keys) from the pianist.

Thundering virtuosity of a very different kind came with Franz Liszt’s transcription of the well-known Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saens. This is something of a rarity in the concert hall, which is not surprising; it is exceptionally difficult. High-speed octaves in both hands were as impressive to see as they were to hear, and they roused the audience to a high pitch of enthusiasm.

Finally, Rachmaninov’s nine Etudes Tableaux, Op.39, “picture studies”, showed more keyboard dexterity, but this time of a more controlled and poetic type, with that touch of melancholy that characterises so much of Rachmaninov’s music.

The Prelude Performer of the evening, supported by the National Lotteries Commission was Daniel Bedi, a 17-year-old pupil at Kearsney College. He played two contrasting piano pieces: Dizzy Fingers by the gifted American light composer Zez Confrey (1895 –1971) and the Nocturne No 20 in C sharp minor by Chopin. - Michael Green