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FRIENDS OF MUSIC: KONSTANTIN SOUKHOVETSKY (article first published : 2005-09-30)

This was a brilliant recital, at the Durban Jewish Centre on September 27, by a 24-year-old Russian pianist who now lives in the United States and has acquired an almost impeccable American accent, judging by his announcement of one of the works he played.

Mr Soukhovetsky combined musical good taste and outstanding technical abilities in a well balanced programme: Mozart, Debussy, Chopin and the American composer George Rochberg, who died only a few months ago at the age of 87. The opening flourish of Mozart’s Sonata in D major K 311 proclaimed a big confident style of playing: this was concert-hall Mozart, not drawing-room. The sonata is not particularly well known but it is an arresting work, bold, innovative, expressive, and this from a composer who was 22 years old when he wrote it.

The pianist, who has a concentrated but pleasantly unaffected manner at the keyboard, gave a first-class performance, especially in the dramatic first movement and the rapid final Rondo.

Chopin (the three outstanding mazurkas of Op. 59 and the B flat minor Scherzo) and Debussy (Suite Bergamasque) made up much of the programme, and unfamiliar fare (to me, anyway) was provided in the form of George Rochberg’s Carnival Music Suite.

In a long and distinguished composing career Rochberg came under the influence at various times of Hindemith, Bartok, Stravinsky, Schoenberg and American jazz. The Carnival Music is a glittering piece of Americana, with a nod here and there to old Europe. It is in five movements, a kind of pop/classical work in the modern manner, blues, rag-time, hints of George Gershwin, some obvious references to Brahms and less obvious ones to Bach.

A difficult and taxing work that was played by Konstantin Soukhovetsky with wonderful panache and skill. Most enjoyable.

The young Prelude Performers of the evening, funded by the National Lottery, were tenor Bonginkosi Cingani and two of his colleagues from an opera group he has established. They showed impressive vocal quality and technique in three arias, and I suspect that they owe a good deal to the guidance of the Durban voice teacher Colleen Philp. - Michael Green




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