Classical Accomplished Performance from Redfern and Pauna

Accomplished Performance from Redfern and Pauna

Piano duettists James Redfern, from England, and Laura Pauna, a Romanian-born South African, presented a programme that explored traditional elements from the canon of Western art music. From the outset their artistic understanding was obvious, Refern and Pauna’s different styles and approaches complementing each other to form an exciting musical union.

Opening the recital with Schubert’s Fantasie in F minor, the pair immediately represented their artistic voices through their perceptive application of a stylistically appropriate palette of tonal colours and purposefully directed phrasing. In this evocation of musical fantasy Schubert traverses an array of emotional states, each securely and imaginatively characterized by Redfern and Pauna. Special mention should be made of their reflexively conceived recapitulation; it is a rare example of sublime artistic craftsmanship.

Surprisingly, during moments of dramatic intensity and polyphonic complexity the performance revealed an unstable pulse. Also, Pauna (secondo) should apply the sustaining pedal with more care, as some melodic detail played by Redfern (primo) was blurred.

Poulenc’s Sonata for Piano (Four Hands) received a blistering rendition. This performance represented a unified response to the score’s demands, as Redfern and Pauna entered Poulenc’s expanded tonal world with confidence and understanding. In a performance abounding with tonal “bite” their careful handling of textural balance and dynamic shadings showcased superior musicianship blended with technical finesse. Pauna’s (primo) imaginative shaping of melodies and control over articulation differentiation in the contemplative “Rustique” movement was one of the evening’s highlights.

Unfortunately, during their performance of Beethoven’s Grosse Fugue Op 134 co-ordination problems between Redfern and Pauna generated moments of extreme discomfort. This work requires slow practice with the aid of a metronome before the next performance. Also, they should consider using a page turner as Redfern’s negotiation of some uncomfortably placed page turns disturbed continuity.

Revelling with assurance and artistic sensitivity in French Impressionism’s sonic aura, the recital ended with a phenomenal performance of Ravel’s Rhapsody Espagnole. Redfern’s (primo) consummate artistry, limpid phrasing, and translucent supple cantabile tone were especially to the fore in the opening “Prelude a la nuit” movement. Pauna’s (secondo) movingly inspired portrayal of the dance-like compositional elements in “Malaguena” propelled a stirring reading.

Their evocative capturing of Spanish idiom during “Habanera” – replete with carefully voiced chords, expressively presented tonal shadings and gradations, as well as thematic figurations alluring in their sensuous evocation – produced a performance of sheer magic. This work ended with a superb rendition of “Feria” where both pianists brought the Spanish imagery and colour inherent in the score to life. Technical brilliance governed by musical considerations propelled this work to a dazzlingly spectacular close. Strongly recommended.

– Jeffrey Brukman

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