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Monday, September 16, 2019


(Steinway Artist Charl du Plessis)

The concert was a remarkable musical Tour de Force by an artist who has not been seen and heard enough in our neck of the woods.(Review by Keith Millar)

The popularity of KwaZulu-Natal’s premier multi-disciplinary festival of the arts, The Hilton Arts Festival which takes place at Hilton College in the Midlands, was apparent on Saturday with a huge turnout, despite the rather chilly and damp conditions.

There is a massive variety of events to choose from at the festival and one can sometimes be spoilt for choice. But for me there can be no better way of kicking of a day’s entertainment than with a bit classical piano music.

So my first port of call was the stately Hilton College Chapel. A stone built building with a high vaulted ceiling, the Chapel has a pleasing bright acoustic, ideal for classical music and ideal for a superb performance by leading South African pianist Charl du Plessis.

Du Plessis, who was brought to Hilton by Christopher Duigan’s Music Revival, is an inspired and virtuosic pianist, he was after all the youngest ever pianist from Africa to receive the accolade of being named a Steinway Artist in 2010. But over and above that, he is an excellent entertainer – presenting his programme with humour and charm.

He played an eclectic choice of pieces which included the Gluck’s gentle and lyrical Melodie, (Dance of the Blessed Spirits) from his opera Orfeo ed Euridice, two Chopin waltz’s from his Op. 64 collection, including the Minute Waltz, Bach’s Keyboard Concerto in F Minor (arranged for solo piano by du Plessis) and  a bright and sunny (in contrast to the weather outside) compilation of Strauss Waltzes by Alfred Grünfeld.

Also included was du Plessis own arrangement for Steinway’s modern digital version of the Pianola of Piazzolla’s Lieber Tango, and on the lighter side George Gershwin’s I’ve Got Rhythm and as an encore Somewhere Over The Rainbow.

But maybe most impressive was his improvisations based on suggestions from the audience. He created a remarkable mash-up (to use the modern term) of diverse pieces such as La Campanella, Finlandia and the theme from the movie The Third Man, then followed this up with Beethoven’s Für Elise mixed with Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor and a Scarlatti piece and finished off with a mix of The Flight of The Bumblebee, The Beatles Let It Be and the theme from the movie Schindler’s List.

The concert was a remarkable musical Tour de Force by an artist who has not been seen and heard enough in our neck of the woods. His only other visit to KZN being a recital for Friends of Music in Durban a few years ago.

Hopefully, it will not be too long before Charl du Plessis visits our province again. – Keith Millar

For more information on the Hilton Arts Festival visit