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26 January 2020 - Christopher Duigan (piano) and James Grace (guitar)

The opening Friends of Music concert of 2020, which took place on Sunday January
26, set the tone for a promising year ahead. It comprised of a collaboration between
two iconic musicians, Christopher Duigan (piano) and James Grace (guitar). Duigan
has certainly endeared himself to local audiences through his ability to bring tasteful
music to a broader audience. Grace has established himself internationally as a
performer, recording artist and pedagogue.

The first half of the concert featured Duigan on the piano. He performed the Maple
Leaf Rag by Scott Joplin; Les Barricades Mystérieuses (The Mysterious Barricades)
by François Couperin; Variationen Zur Gesundung Von Arinushka by Arvo Pärt;
Ouro sobre azul by Ernesto Nazareth; Sonata in B-flat major Op. 22: Allegro by
Ludwig van Beethoven; Raindrop Prelude from Preludes Op. 28 by Frederic Chopin;
Sonata in G by Domenico Scarlatti; Prelude in C-sharp minor by Sergei
Rachmaninoff; Nicole Bianche by Ludovico Einaudi and Cristal by Cesar Camargo
Mariano. The second half of the concert saw Duigan pair up with Grace, as
suggested by the title of this concert. They performed Serenata Española by Joaquin
Malats; Spanish Dance No. 5 by Enrique Granados; Recuerdos de la Alhambra by
Francisco Tárrega; Black Orpheus by Luiz Bonfá; Milonga by Jorge Cardosa; Fields
of Gold by Sting and Spain by Chick Corea.

Given the origins of the guitar as an instrument, the concert had something of a Latin
bent to it, as was evidenced in the repertoire selected by both musicians.
Duigan’s opening number, the Joplin, was a great hit with the audience and seemed
to reassure them that the concert was not going to be drab. He allowed the essential
notes of the melody to predominate without excessive attention to detail.
He provided an interesting introduction to the Couperin which he brought to life in his
rendition of it. One could almost sense the fluttering eyelashes which he explained
might be the “mysterious barricades” of a coquettish lady.
Similarly, in the Pärt, he provided some background to the story which inspired the
work and created this atmosphere in his performance of the work.
It is clear that Duigan enjoys the Latin genre. This was clear in his performance of
the Nazareth. One almost senses that this is the idiom with which he is most
comfortable. His right-hand had a nice legerrio touch and he coped well with the
tricky cross-rhythms between the hands. There was also a pleasing contrast of
dynamics.

In the Beethoven, his true talent came to the fore. He demonstrated his incredible
agility and accuracy, particularly in his octave work. The performance conveyed the
bustling optimism which he identified in Beethoven’s music in his introduction to the
work.

In the Chopin, his right-hand was surreal and sung above with a semi-detached
touch. In this work, he also demonstrated his great physical strength.
In the Scarlatti, he displayed a suitably light touch.

This same softness of touch was also evident in the Rachmaninoff, particularly in the
right-hand.
This same cultivated tone quality also manifested in the Einaudi.
In the Mariano, as with the other Latin works, one sensed that this was his idiom. He
displayed good independence of the hands.
In the piano-guitar collaboration, which comprised the second half of the concert,
one sensed that Grace is a seasoned, international musician with the sort of finesse
which comes from being pitted against the world’s best.
In the Malats, he displayed a small but highly intricate sound. In the Granados, he
created a more introspective mood. In the Bonfá, both the piano and guitar assumed
melodic and accompanying roles. The mood was reflective and there were some
beautiful chords in the guitar along with a melody which rung out. In the Cardosa, the
guitar demonstrated robust harmonies and chords, and this was complemented by
the piano’s perfection of tone.

The Sting was the highlight of the concert. It was a number to which everybody could
relate, and which elicited a feel-good response.

The Prelude Performer, Nathan Govender (piano), provided a pleasing start to the
concert. He performed Film Noir by Michael Cornick; Oscar’s Bogaloo by Charles
Beale; I’m Beginning to See the Light by James, Ellington, Hodges, George and That
Monday Morning Feeling by Roland Perrin. Govender’s level-headed and
unassuming manner endeared himself to the audience. He displayed a sensitive,
responsive touch and a natural feel for the jazz idiom. In the Cornick, he maintained
a good meter and demonstrated both strength and control. One felt that he was fully
a part of the music and displayed good positive playing. In the Beale, there was
careful attention to melody and the meter was ever-present. In the James, Ellington,
Hodges, George, he demonstrated his ability to vary the dynamics and he coped well
with the cross-rhythms between the hands. In the Perrin, he revealed his flexibility as
a performer, playing in a more laid-back fashion. One felt that throughout, he clearly
enjoyed the music and was focused on the underlying goal of bringing across a
strong pulse together with stylized gestures of sound. – Dr Martin Goldstein

-Posted by ARTSMART