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Wednesday, February 22, 2017


(Daniel Ciobanu)

A display of brilliant virtuoso playing. (Review by Michael Green)

Daniel Ciobanu, a 25-year-old Romanian pianist who lives in Berlin and had his musical education in Scotland, gave a display of brilliant virtuoso playing in a recital for the Friends of Music at the Durban Jewish Centre.

The programme consisted of three big works and some lesser known pieces, all of them technically demanding.

Chopin’s Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise is one of the Polish master’s lesser known compositions, sometimes performed with an orchestra. The Andante is beautiful and extended (Spianato means smoothed out); the Polonaise is brilliantly scored.

Ciobanu, a slender, bearded young man, gave a splendid performance, with a delicate, clear tone in the Andante and high speed dexterity in the Polonaise. It was impressive to see as well as to hear, and it brought forth an ovation from the audience.

Mussorgsky’s massive Pictures at an Exhibition, composed in 1874, was played with great power and dramatic effect, with admirably judged tonal contrasts. This, too, was greatly appreciated by the audience.

It was followed by attractive and richly harmonised 20th century pieces by the Romanian George Enescu (1881-1955) and the Russian Nikolai Medtner (1879-1951).

Finally we had Prokofiev’s Piano Sonata No. 7, written in 1942, fast and brutal. One celebrated Russian pianist describes it as a portrait of totalitarianism and goes so far as to say that some of it depicts Stalin.

It is by any reckoning a savage composition that makes formidable demands on the player, especially the final movement. Daniel Ciobanu handled these with great skill and conviction. This music may not have been to everybody’s taste, but everybody must have been impressed by the  performance.

The prelude performer of the evening, supported by the National Lotteries Commission, was Zama Mkhwanazi, a 16-year-old pupil at Northlands Girls’ High School. Accompanied at the piano by Bobby Mills she showed a promising soprano voice in three well-known songs. - Michael Green