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FOM: ADAM ALEKSANDER (article first published : 2003-11-6)

Those who braved the electric storm over Durban on the night of November 4 were rewarded with another display of thunder and lightning in the Durban Jewish Centre when this Canadian pianist gave a programme of Beethoven and Liszt for the Friends of Music.

Adam Aleksander has won high praise in North America and Europe, and it is easy to see and hear why. He is a virtuoso of the first order, with a prodigious technique and a big, resonant tone, and he is also a musician with insight and good judgment.

From an artistic point of view the main item on his programme was Beethoven’s Appassionata Sonata, one of the most famous of all piano sonatas but one that, oddly enough, does not seem to be played very often in concert halls these days. Adam Aleksander gave a torrential account of this great work, especially in the final movement. Some may have found his playing too fast, but I must say that the total effect was quite overpowering.

The seven Beethoven Bagatelles Op. 33 which opened the programme were likewise given the virtuoso treatment. The pianist brought high skills to what are sometimes thought of as relatively minor little pieces by the master.

It was however in nine of the12 Liszt Etudes d’execution transcendante, Transcendental Studies, that Mr Aleksander gave a staggering display of his powers at the keyboard. These are among the most difficult piano pieces ever written, and they have musical value as well, in Liszt’s wild and eccentric way. They have been correctly described as music that explores the capabilities of the piano to the furthest limits, and Adam Aleksander produced a breathtaking barrage of double octaves, dangerous leaps and skips, and rapid runs and chords, all this done with the utmost control and poise.

A wonderful performance. - Michael Green




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