Classical Colours of wavering nightfall

Colours of wavering nightfall

In a programme that drew inspiration from nocturnal music and varying states of darkness, soprano Magdalene Minnaar and pianist Jose Dias explored a wide range of repertoire that exhibited control over a myriad of pianissimo states. While Rachmaninov’s Eti Letniye Nochi and Richard Strauss’s Cäcilie received appropriately sensuous, fervent renditions, most of the programme was situated in dimly lit colours of wavering nightfall.

Minnaar enters into each song’s emotional space with ease and conviction, with her magnificently etched line in Fauré’s Après un Rêve particularly memorable. Here, the inner core of this wonderful chanson was revealed through a performance that showcased Minnaar’s absorbed control over ebb and flow. Performing French repertoire with deeply felt appreciation and artistic comprehension, Minnaar’s kaleidoscopic, luscious tonal palette, especially in Debussy’s Beau Soir, revealed an artist at the peak of her creative powers. Through projecting magnificently spun lines with superbly controlled tonal delicacy, Minnaar’s interpretation of Bellini’s Ah, Non Creda Mirarti, was impressive and entrancing.

Soprano Magdalene Minnaar and Jose' Dias on piano. Photo: CuePix/Mia van der Merwe

Soprano Magdalene Minnaar and Jose’ Dias on piano. Photo: CuePix/Mia van der Merwe

Effectively drawing the audience into the vortex of the text’s emotional import, Minnaar’s sense for dramatic intensity revealed the essence of Floyd’s Ain’t it a Pretty Night. Her flawless English diction, command over melodic angularity, and impeccable intonation were particularly admirable. Here, Dias – an immaculately clean player with extraordinary command over digital clarity without a hint of legato pedalling smudginess – appeared too contained to fully mirror Minnaar’s sense of artistic theatricality. However, in Rachmaninov’s Eti Letniye Nochi his fiery passion added to the emotional argument, matching Minnaar’s spectacular fervour, his musical imagination evident in the colouring of cascading swirling, figurations.

Adding three piano solos to the intricate programme, Dias revealed his ability to sensitively sculpture phrases, meaningfully integrate ornamentation within melodic structures, appropriately balance multi-voiced polyphonic lines, and convey musical structure with insight and assurance. Yet, for me, Dias should play with more abandon and blistering verve. In Debussy’s La Soiree dans Grenade, Dias moved through the ever-changing expressive states with ease and artistic poise, yet the music calls for greater displays of Rachmaninov’s transcription of Tchaikovsky’s Lullaby needed to be transferred onto a larger canvas; Romantic piano music conceived on a considerable panorama. I sincerely suggest that Dias free himself from the encumbrance of reading the score while performing, and that he performs from memory, freeing his imagination to exclusively focus on the sonic aura of each moment.

Performing South African composer Braam du Toit’s quietly meandering Weg Wees with doleful fragility, Minnaar and Dias displayed appreciation for the score, with the latter revelling in extended piano techniques. Strangely, Du Toit does not incorporate these techniques within the body of the song, nor do they form part of a reflective postlude.

In short, this was a programme that revealed some really fine music making that on occasion required less inhibition. Recommended.

Jeffrey Brukman
Cue specialist writer

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