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JILL RICHARDS RECITAL IN UK (article first published : 2008-02-2)

Pianist Jill Richards, one of South Africa’s most distinguished contemporary-classical musicians, has been invited to appear in a prestigious recital in London on February 13, to be presented under the aegis of the BBC. Ms Richards will perform at the London Symphony Orchestra’s St Luke's concert hall, a restored Hawksmoor church that plays host to a diverse selection of concerts from Elton John to the London Sinfonietta.

She will appear alongside South African born composer, Kevin Volans. Together they will perform an all-Volans programme of works for piano duo, including Nine Beginnings (1985), Cicada (1994), Mr. Handel's Return (a BBC commission, which will receive its world premiere here) and Shiva Dances (another world premiere). The concert will be recorded for broadcast on Britain’s Radio 3 on March 8.

Mr Handel's Return was written specially for this concert, while Shiva Dances was written for me - Kevin gave it to me as a Christmas present a year ago,” says Jill Richards. Cicada is a piece we have performed together quite a lot, most recently at the Gaudeamus Week in September last year. Nine Beginnings dates from his time in Cologne, and was revised in 1985. Kevin and I have been playing together for about seven or eight years, and are good friends as well as close colleagues.”

Jill Richards’ passion for contemporary music started while she was a student at the University of Cape Town and has led to her being South Africa’s foremost performer of new piano music today. She has long been associated with new music groups, workshops and festivals, ranging from the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (broadcast by the BBC) to South African events such as the annual New Music Indaba, where she performs regularly.

Her special insight into new music performance comes also from her close work with composers (including a workshop with Russian composers in 1993, where her ensemble was the first group of South Africans to perform in post-communist Russia).

She has had a large number of works - from solo pieces to concertos - dedicated to her, including two sets of etudes by Kevin Volans with a third set to be completed later this year. Her collaboration with Volans started when she performed his two-piano work Cicada (later released on CD) at his 50th Birthday concert at the South Bank in London.

Jill Richards also has a close working relationship with Philip Miller, the composer of the music for artist William Kentridge’s 9 Drawings For Projection – a live film and music event that was performed extensively in South Africa as well as in New York City’s Central Park, at the Barbican in London and the Commonwealth Festival in Melbourne.

The pianist has been widely broadcast, not only in South Africa and the UK, but also in the US and Europe, and she has released four CDs, with the fifth to be released in 2008. Jill Richard’s versatility means that she is equally at home with the standard repertoire, both as soloist and chamber musician. She includes in her extensive repertoire music from across the African continent, which she has performed worldwide.

Ms Richards is South Africa’s third pianist to be designated a Steinway artist. She is the first female African pianist to hold this honour, of which she is clearly proud, keeping select company with compatriots Abdullah Ibrahim and Bheki Mseleku. - William Charlton-Perkins




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