Classical Fourie: Fullness over Finesse

Fourie: Fullness over Finesse

Concert pianist Benjamin Fourie presented a programme of works written between 1988 and 2006 by three South African composers – Etienne van Rensburg, Peter Klatzow and Ilse-Marie Lee – with the intention of drawing parallels between the works presented and philosophical, musical, political and sociological issues present in conflict and resolution. Fourie deserves sincere congratulations for performing this repertoire in public, as the infrequent public reception of South African art music is an ongoing area of concern.

In presenting this programme Fourie displayed the courage of his convictions, especially evident in his remarks that preceded each work, where his personalized understanding of the score was presented with authenticity and artistic perception. Sadly, Fourie’s rendering of keyboard demonstrations ended too abruptly and roughly. Also, when performing Fourie should make use of a page turner so that the music’s flow is not interrupted and he can focus exclusively on performing.

Concert pianist Benjamin Fourie rehearses before his recital, Conflict and Resolution.  Photo: Hlumela Mkabile

Concert pianist Benjamin Fourie rehearses before his recital, Conflict and Resolution.
Photo: Hlumela Mkabile

As a performer Fourie’s style embraces the “grand manner” of portraying the larger artistic image and the music’s architectonic sweep. Unfortunately, through following this approach, finely etched details were subsumed within the music’s greater tapestry, and numerous poignantly shaped figurations did not “speak” within the texture.

Throughout the recital Fourie’s liberal use of the sustaining pedal reduced clarity and appreciation of motif enunciation, textural stratification and harmonic colouring. Here, Fourie needs to listen with greater care and consider judiciously applying half-pedalling or using the sostenuto (middle) pedal. This aspect hindered complete enjoyment during moments of declamation in Van Rensburg’s “Ballad W6/88”, harmonic shifts in “The Watermaid’s Cave” from Klatzow’s Suite for Piano: From the Poets, and articulation differentiation in “Prayer for the Bones”, also from Klatzow’s Suite for Piano.

To his credit Fourie’s evocatively presented conclusion to Klatzow’s “Earth, Sea, Sky” displayed his mastery over grading pianissimo tonal shadings with circumspection. This characteristic was also apparent in the opening and closing sections of Van Rensburg’s ballad. With this evidence of Fourie’s ability to control sound production through critical self-listening, it is strange to consider that large tracts of his performance would have benefited from greater dynamic exploration, more careful profiling of melodic shapes, and subtler projection of melodic lines across a rich underlying tapestry; the latter aspect being especially noticeable in “The Watermaid’s Cave”.

Clearly at ease in presenting music from Klatzow’s easily accessible international style of composition, Fourie revelled in the cascading bravura technicalities as “Impundudlu”, from Klatzow’s Suite for Piano, drew to a tumultuous close. An interesting recital appreciated by a connoisseur niche audience.

– Jeffrey Brukman

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