PHILIPP RICHARDSEN in recital for Friends of Music, Tuesday 17 October 2017.
Review by WILLIAM CHARLTON-PERKINS
Viennese born Philipp Richardsen, an internationally acclaimed pianist of Norwegian descent, treated his Friends of Music audience at the Durban Jewish Centre to an evening of superb music making. He opened his programme with a profound account Franz Schubert’s cerebral but deeply satisfying late masterpiece, the Piano Sonata in A Major D959 - a work whose huge emotional spectrum rings the changes from mellow ebullience, bucolic fervour and occasionally soaring spirits in its outer movements, to heart-rending despair in its second movement, surely one of Schubert’s greatest moments of inspiration.
Richardsen’s pristine yet powerful delivery of the much-loved work did it full justice, evincing exhilarating evidence of the consummate technical mastery and sensibility of a true virtuoso whose individual stamp breathes fresh life into a concert staple, creating a sense of new discovery for his audience.
Richardsen’s prowess was equally in evidence in the second half of his programme. This opened with Chopin’s iconic Ballade No I in G minor, one of the Romantic master’s best known works whose hallmark characteristics include interludes of sonorous drama alternating with glittering flights of lightning-swift passage work, interwoven with tenderness and the emotive pull that are unique to Chopin’s writing.
The pianist then treated his audience to a short work by the seldom-heard Norwegian composer, Haldfan Kjefulf (1815 – 1868), his Idyll from Pieces Opus 4 no 2. Usually the sort of piece offered as an encore at the end of an evening, here, as if in evidence of Mr Richardsen’s savvy skill in programming, it was an effective interlude before embarking on the evening’s finale, which ironically proved an apposite acknowledgment of the hurricane season we have all experienced recently.
Joining a long line of famous pianists, Richardsen exulted in pitching his audience into the high seas of Ferruccio Busoni’s mighty piano transcription of JS Bach’s Chaconne in D minor from his Violin Partita No 2 BWV 1004. The pianist’s powerhouse bravura in dispatching of this formidable warhorse provoked a storm of richly deserved applause.
Lizst’s Liebestraum, as a bona fide encore, brought to a close an evening which had begun with touching renditions by the promising young soprano, Nontobeko Bhengu, an 18 year old pupil of Lihlthembe High School, who as Friends of Music’s prelude performer, sang Mozart’s Ach ich fuhls, and Puccini’s O mio babbino caro, accompanied by Bobby Mills.