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FRIENDS OF MUSIC RECITAL: APRIL 19 (article first published : 2005-04-21)

This Friends of Music recital by duo pianists Nettle and Markham was an exceptional occasion: brilliant playing in an unusually attractive programme and an unusually large Friends of Music audience - nearly 200 enthusiastic listeners at the SABC in Durban.

David Nettle and Richard Markham are Englishmen who have been playing together on two pianos for nearly 30 years in almost every part of the world, including a visit to Durban ten years ago. It is hardly surprising then that this present appearance revealed absolute accord at the two keyboards; it was rather like listening to one pianist blessed with 20 fingers instead of ten.

Their programme was consistently interesting and enjoyable, starting with Homage a Handel, by Ignaz Moscheles, a nineteenth century virtuoso. Born in Prague in 1794, he lived in London for twenty years but spent most of his life in Germany and was one of the first pianists to play Beethoven sonatas in public. This “homage to Handel” is an extended piece which in its tonal grandness captures the spirit of Handel (though it is at times more Moschelian than Handelian).

The Brahms work which followed was without question the highlight of the evening, the Variations on a theme by Haydn, much better known as an orchestral composition (Brahms himself arranged it for two pianos). This rich and noble music was superbly played, with every nuance receiving loving attention from the pianists.

The other weighty work on the programme was Rachmaninov’s Suite No 2, Op. 7, written in 1901. It is in four movements and displays the characteristics that became so familiar in many of the composer’s later works: lovely melancholy melodies, densely textured harmonies and a brilliant piano style.

In lighter vein were a glittering Caprice Heroique by the multi-talented Camille Saint-Saens; Chabrier’s famous Espana, which came off surprisingly well at the two keyboards; and four of Joseph Canteloube’s beautiful Songs of the Auvergne, arranged by Nettle and Markham themselves. And for an encore there was the ever-popular Leonard Bernstein.

The evening’s Prelude Performer, funded by the National Lottery, was Gillian Bradtke, a violinist from Durban Girls’ College who played a Bach movement with verve and style and a Wieniawski romance with a full, rich tone. - Michael Green




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