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FRIENDS OF MUSIC: BRYAN WALLICK CONCERT (article first published : 2008-06-26; last edited : [an error occurred while processing this directive])

This Friends of Music recital at the Durban Jewish Centre turned out to be a remarkable display of virtuoso piano playing. Bryan Wallick is a young American with an impressive concert record in America and Europe. He has a special interest in synesthesia, which is apparently the ability to experience two or more sensory experiences with one stimulus. He sees colours with each musical pitch and he has created a computer programme that projects images of his colour visions to the audience.

He didn’t need anything as exotic as that to fascinate his Durban audience. He let his fingers do the talking, and the colouring, and with memorable effect. He is a tall, lean, good-looking man, aged about 30, I would think; and in a programme that gave him ample opportunity to show his paces, so to speak, he extracted a big tone and exceptionally rapid figuration from the Friends of Music

He opened with five sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti, three of them played at high speed with an astonishing facility in repeated notes and crossing of hands.

Brahms’s five-movement F minor Sonata, Op. 5, produced a performance of great power and resonance. At times I thought the tempi were too fast for comfort and clarity, but there was plenty of beautiful playing, especially in the final movement. And the pianist brought a sense of cohesion and shape to the work as a whole.

An example of authentic Americana, Samuel Barber’s Excursions, Op. 20, brought forth some of the most delightful playing of the entire evening. These four pieces depict various aspects and moods of American life, and the third in particular, a little set of variations, has a kind of enchantment which was admirably portrayed by the pianist.

Franz Liszt transcribed for the piano about 50 of Schubert’s songs but for some reason they are not often played nowadays in the concert hall. Bryan Wallick gave us two of the big ones, Gretchen am Spinnrade (Margaret at the spinning wheel) and Auf dem Wasser zu singen (to be sung on the water). The old master himself would have smiled approvingly at the keyboard skills displayed by this modern exponent of his music.

Finally, we had Liszt’s Fantasy on Themes from Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni, a flamboyant showpiece which brought forth the ultimate in thunderous virtuosity from the pianist. “Too many notes”, the Austrian emperor once gently (and ignorantly) chided Mozart. Heaven knows what he would have said if he had heard this lot.

Durban audiences like a bit of prestissimo. Bryan Wallick earned a standing ovation, and in response he played an encore, Liszt’s gentle transcription of one of Schubert’s loveliest songs, Standchen (Serenade).

The evening’s prelude performer, funded by the National Lottery, was Yea Kyung Kim, yet another gifted young violinist of Eastern origins. This pupil at Durban Girls’ College is 13 years old, and she showed poise and promise in two well-known pieces by Fritz Kreisler. - Michael Green




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