Dina Duisen

Concert date: 15 January 2023
Reviewed by: JRC

Dina Duisen's Piano Concert Review

Musical fireworks had been flagged up for this piano concert. The reality was an even greater wealth of experience for the 100+ audience drawn from a radius of over 60 miles.

London based Dina made a glittering entrance and promptly launched into a piece of music not often heard in public performances, - because it is so difficult. No one, without considerable musical knowledge, would have guessed. Schumann was probably inspired by Paganini to write this Toccata; the result in Dina’s hands sounded orchestral and just flowed.

Dina’s rapport with the audience was immediate, relating how Martha Argerich had been asked how she ‘warmed up’ for a concert and had replied ‘That’s it’ [the Toccata!]. She also related her unusual experience at her first appearance in Newton Abbot. She was accompanying a violinist whose string broke, and she was left stranded on stage. How inclusive we felt that NADSA concerts get talked about in the London professional music circuit.

A casual aside to the audience was ‘Another set of variations,- I like variations’: and indeed we had variations in one guise or another from Beethoven, Bach, Schuman and debatably Liszt. One can see why Dina likes variations: they present opportunities galore to weave subtleties into a familiar fabric. Faced with 32 variations from Beethoven alone I had wondered whether I might succumb to counting them off. No such thought crossed my mind as I was fascinated by the wealth of diversity in composition and delivery, and appreciated the pauses between variations.

Another dimension of diversity was the inclusion of Chopin and Saint-Saens. After such virtuosity, Chopin’s Nocturne in F Op15/1, was a complete contrast. The serenity of the first simplistic theme was heart-melting. The thunderous second theme soon abated and we were returned to peace. For me, Chopin is the touchstone for a pianist: can they reach my heart? Well obviously Dina did, but how she managed to get to the boundaries of sentimentality, without gilding the lily, is a rare talent. And when she played Nocturn in E flat Op 9/2 my respect and admiration just grew. This is surely one of Chopin’s most familiar pieces and hackneyed renditions abound, however Dina’s tempo was possibly slightly upped giving it a sparkle of new life. Saint-Saens’ Mazurkas are less well known than Chopin’s and it was wonderful to hear two of his. Watching, as well as listening, the light-hearted spirit of dance was truly with us.

The Bach-Busoni Chaconne variations should have a particular mention for here we had huge contrast of touch and style: Bach might have been amazed and Busoni delighted.

Dina said that Chopin’s Fantaisie-Impromptu in C sharp minor was supposed to be our encore, but she would ‘think of something else’. This Impromptu is very familiar and hugely emotive for me; such a treat to hear it played so beautifully with all the grace, flow and sparkle it deserves.

Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No 12 provided a suitably flamboyant finale to this programme. Of course there was an encore and Dina thought it appropriate to play again what she had used in 2016 at NADSA as an impromptu fill-in whilst the violinist replaced a string. This ‘Legend of the Dombra’ by Nagym Mendygaliev won the hearts of the audience then, but our hearts had been won much earlier in the concert.

One was left in awe after this concert. With Dina’s undoubted technical ability, engaging personality and refreshing lack of affectation, she really ‘has it all’. To quote another member of the audience ‘I am absolutely brimming over with the brilliance and breathtaking musicality of Dina’s playing’.

Dina returns to NADSA on 19th February with Clarinetist Peter Cigleris: our great good fortune!

NADSA Concert, Sunday 15th January 3.00pm at The Courtenay Centre, Newton Abbot.

JRC 2023