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FRIENDS OF MUSIC: PIETER JACOBS (article first published : 2007-10-18)

Mozart and Prokofiev seem an odd couple but the combination worked well in an impressive piano recital given by Pieter Jacobs of Pretoria for a Friends of Music audience in the Durban Jewish Centre.

Pieter Jacobs himself is an unusually interesting young man. His extensive academic and professional career seems to have embraced equally music and electronic engineering. In South Africa he was awarded Masterís degrees in music and engineering. In the United States he achieved the Doctor of Musical Arts degree at Yale University. And at Boston University he pursued research dealing with the mathematical modelling of aspects of the motor control of piano playing (I am quoting from his programme note).

He has appeared as a piano soloist, concerto player and chamber musician and, by way of variation, has written articles in international journals about music perception and electromagnetism. And all this from an individual who looks positively boyish but is probably somewhere between 25 and 30.

As a pianist he is first-rate, with an imposing keyboard technique and a concentrated, serious approach to the music. He opened his programme with Mozartís Sonata in F major, K. 332, a very fine work, with dramatic contrasts and a brilliant presentation, all this performed with verve and style.

This was followed by another quite familiar Mozart composition, the Rondo in A minor, K511, the composer in a serious and solemn mood, lifted every now and then by the graceful piano inventiveness and the sheer poetry of the music.

After the interval we moved on a couple of centuries to Prokofiev, represented by a little-known piano version of his well-known Romeo and Juliet ballet music. I had never before heard these Ten Pieces for Piano from Romeo and Juliet, Op. 75 and I would not have thought that the orchestral music could be transferred successfully to the solo piano. But this is Prokofievís own arrangement (he himself was an outstanding pianist), made in the nineteen-thirties in an attempt to popularise his ballet, and the keyboard layout is most effective (and difficult to play).

Pieter Jacobs surmounted the technical problems with great confidence and panache, giving a convincing interpretation of this vivid music.

The audience for this most enjoyable recital was dismally small. The Friends of Music have 263 paid-up members, but not more than about a dozen attended this performance. People are of course entitled to do as they wish, but if they want live classical music to continue in Durban they should support it by turning up at concerts. - Michael Green




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