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Wednesday, September 14, 2016


(Pallavi Mahidhara)

Pallavi’s playing was thrilling to hear and to see. (Review by Michael Green)

The outstanding Indian/American pianist Pallavi Mahidhara presented a programme of unusual interest when she gave a recital for the Friends of Music at the Durban Jewish Centre.

Ranging from early 19th century romantic to late 20th century ultra-modern, the programme gave her plenty of opportunity to show her skills as a virtuoso and as a poetic interpreter.

She opened with Brahms’s arrangement for the left hand alone of Bach’s celebrated Chaconne, written originally (300 years ago) for the solo violin. This magnificent work, a set of variations on a basic theme, is probably best known in the (two hand) piano transcription made by Ferrucio Busoni in 1893. The Brahms version is rich and resonant, and Pallavi produced a remarkable performance, sweeping majestically through its many difficulties and revealing in full its many contrapuntal patterns and colours.

We moved to more familiar ground with Franz Schubert’s Four Impromptus of Op. 90, written in 1827. These beautiful pieces were played expressively and imposingly, with a featherlight touch in the rapid passages and with great strength in the music’s big moments. Pallavi Mahidhara is a slender young woman but she generates great power at the keyboard.

The modern era was represented by three of Luciano Berio’s rather optimistically named Six Encores, written between 1965 and 1990. This Italian composer (1925-2003) was known for his experimental work, with particular reference to electronic music. His Encores are interesting but not really attractive for the ordinary listener.

Finally the pianist gave a demonstration of supreme virtuosity in Franz Liszt’s six Grand Etudes de Paganini, showpiece versions of compositions by Niccolo Paganini, the celebrated violin composer. Two of these are well-known: La Campanella (The Little Bell) and the last of the six, based on a Paganini Caprice that has been used for variations by, inter alia, Brahms and Rachmaninov.

Pallavi’s playing was thrilling to hear and to see, and the audience responded by giving her a standing ovation at the end.

The prelude performer of the evening, supported by the National Lotteries Commission, was Tasmin Hastings, a 13-year-old violinist from Durban Girls’ College. Accompanied at the piano by David Smith she played music by Tchaikovsky and Beethoven. - Michael Green