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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

ANDREW WARBURTON RECITAL (article first published : 2003-07-30)

Andrew Warburton of Durban is a kind of musical all-rounder who can turn his hand to many things. He is a lecturer, teacher, accompanist, chamber musician – and a virtuoso pianist, as Durban audiences have discovered in recent months. Last May he played Tchaikovsky’s notoriously difficult second piano concerto with the KZN Philharmonic, and last night, at the Durban Jewish Club, he performed for the Friends of Music an exceptionally taxing solo recital programme which ended with Liszt’s B Minor Sonata, a technical Everest in piano music.

Moreover, he had only about four weeks in which to prepare his recital programme, having stepped into the breach following a cancellation by an overseas performer. In the circumstances it was understandable that he should play from the scores of the four works on the programme, not that this appeared to impede him in the least.

He opened with Mozart’s C minor Fantasy K 475 and C minor Sonata K 457, written separately but published together by the composer and often played together, as they were here, without a break. This is dramatic and noble music, and Andrew Warburton reached into the heart of it.

The G minor Sonata of Robert Schumann, Op. 22, which followed, is not well known. It is a brilliant virtuoso work with a lovely slow movement and fast movements that are packed with the rich, dense harmonies typical of this composer. It was good to hear a confident, assured performance of something well off the beaten track.

The Liszt Sonata, described by the pianist in a programme note as “perhaps one of the greatest large scale works ever written for the piano”, always has me in two minds. I greatly admire much of Liszt’s music, but I sometimes find the thundering (bombastic?) double octaves of his sonata as hard to stomach as they are to play. I like the quiet bits best. Whatever, the performance was outstanding and was greatly to the taste of the audience, producing foot stamping and bravos at the end.

With the help of the National Lottery the Friends of Music present a 10-minute “Prelude Performance” at the start of their concerts, the performers being promising young musicians. This time they were an 18-voice choir from the Open Air School for physically handicapped children, conducted by their choirmaster Derek Stafford. There is no need to pass critical judgment on the efforts of these brave youngsters, one of them in a wheelchair and some with crutches. I found it a heart-warming experience and a credit to those who have helped this choir.

There are plenty of good people in South Africa and it is a pity that they do not always receive the recognition they deserve. – Michael Green




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