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A piano duo with charisma and virtuosity

If it’s exciting to hear a star pianist on top form, it’s more exciting to hear two of them playing together on the same piano. And the pulse races even faster if a fire scare at their rehearsal venue meant that they almost didn’t make it to the Royal Concert Hall at all. As it was, they came running in late, the account of their adventure making it sound as if concert dress was still being buttoned as they emerged onto the platform. It all sounded rather hair-raising.

Our two intrepid artists were Martin James Bartlett and Dina Duisen, two pianists already known separately to Sunday morning regulars at the RCH but brought together to perform a range of festive music for one piano, four hands.

Both Martin and Dina have bags of personality, charisma and virtuosity. There’s not a lot of room for ten fingers on one keyboard, so a certain amount of digital gymnastics is involved if the two players are not to push each other off their stools. Needless to say, all was perfect harmony in both the physical and musical sense and they seemed to communicate almost telepathically.

They started with some witty, elegant Mozart before moving on to an arrangement of Grieg’s Peer Gynt suite, starting with a lovely, free-flowing portrayal of dawn over the Moroccan desert in Morning Mood before the moving death scene of Peer’s mother Åse, the beautifully precise, almost orchestrally vivid Anitra’s Dance and the final, wild stamping and hollering of The Hall of the Mountain King.

Equally vivid and precise was their playing of Debussy’s Petite Suite, especially the opening En bateau with its gently rocking, gondola-like motion.

And then came three numbers from Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty performed with a sense of theatrical showmanship, the colours bright, the rhythms buoyant, the melodies allowed to sing their hearts out. After their full-blooded performance of the magnificent Waltz the audience was hardly going to let them leave without an encore. In fact, they got two: a Spanish Dance by Moszkowski and Tchaikovsky’s very Christmassy Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Martin James Bartlett and Dina Duisen (piano) in Nottingham’s Sunday Morning Piano Series at the Royal Concert Hall

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