24-year-old pianist performed with extraordinary skill, judgment and maturity. (Review by Michael Green)
Music from the 19th century drew a big audience to the Playhouse, Durban, for the fourth concert of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra’s summer symphony season.
With Daniel Boico conducting, the orchestra maintained a uniformly high standard in works by Mendelssohn, Liszt and Brahms, but the star of the evening was undoubtedly a 24-year-old pianist from Georgia, in Eastern Europe.
Her name is Mariam Batsashvili, she has a slight figure and an unpretentious stage manner, and she plays the piano with extraordinary skill, judgment and maturity.
Three years ago she won first prize in an international Franz Liszt piano competition held in Holland, and here in Durban she played Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in E flat major, a challenging task by any measurement.
She handled the flying octaves and dazzling runs with great confidence and superb technique, but what impressed me most was the lovely tonal quality she produced in the concerto’s lyrical passages.
The audience gave her an ovation, and in response she played as an encore a famous period piece, the Minuet by Ignacy Paderewski, the only pianist I know of who became a prime minister (of Poland).
The orchestra opened the programme with Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture (Fingal’s Cave), one of the composer’s best works, written in 1830 after he had visited Scotland.
The big composition of the evening was Brahms’s monumental Symphony No. 1 in C minor, a work written over a period of 20 years, with the spirit of Beethoven always looming over the composer.
The orchestra presented an opulent performance, with the strings eloquent and powerful, with notable contributions from the brass and woodwind in their many important passages, and with eye-catching skills from the timpanist, Stephane Pechoux.
It was another major success for conductor Boico. - Michael Green
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