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Wednesday, April 6, 2016


(Miki Aoki)

Soloist demonstrated delicacy as well as a capacity for playing with great power and technical prowess of the highest order. (Review by Michael Green)

A slender, good-looking young Japanese pianist created high enthusiasm when she played for a Friends of Music audience at the Durban Jewish Centre.

 Miki Aoki started playing the piano at the age of four and was 12 when she made her debut at London’s Royal Festival Hall. She had her musical education in the United States and Germany. She is now based in Austria and is building an international career as a soloist and chamber musician.

The first half of her Durban programme was dedicated entirely to 20th century French composers --- Darius Milhaud, Erik Satie, Francis Poulenc and Arthur Honneger. The music of all of them is unfailingly elegant, graceful, witty, polished, at times poignant, in a word, French.

Miki Aoki captured exactly the mood of this lovely music, making light of its rather formidable technical problems and conveying the air of Gallic virtuosity. Milhaud was represented by a jazzy, catchy piece derived from the two years he spent in Brazil; Satie by one of his famous Gymnopedies, lean and mysterious; Honneger by a piece called Souvenir de Chopin; and Poulenc by various compositions, including a memorable item called Melancolie, written in 1940 during Nazi Germany’s occupation of France.

After the interval we had The Lark, a beautiful song by the Russian composer Mikhail Glinka (1804-1857), arranged for piano by Mily Balakirev (1837-1910). Then we moved to more familiar ground with one of Schubert’s Impromptus, Chopin’s famous Etude Op. 10 No 3, and the first of his four Ballades.

Here the pianist demonstrated that, in addition to the delicacy shown earlier, she was capable of playing with great power and technical prowess of the highest order.

The audience gave her a standing ovation, and in response she gave an encore, a kind of jazzed up version of George Gershwin’s Summertime.

The prelude performer of the evening, supported by the National Lotteries Commission, was a 17 year-old soprano, Simesihle Nothando Nkosi, who is a matric student at Eden College. She was accompanied at the piano by her teacher, Amina Carini, and, in one of her four songs, by a fellow student, Tazlo Luke Jacobs. - Michael Green