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When the classical Masters serenaded Muson

By JAPHET ALAKAM

Renowned pianist and lawyer Louis Mbanefo and music composer and Cello maestro, Thomas Kanitz engaged the audience in a spellbound piano and cello concert at Muson centre Lagos recently. Both performers who are highly recognized in their musical prowess did not fail to accomplish this feat as they performed pieces of Beethoven, Schubert, and Vivaldi to the delight of the audience.

The guests were a mixed audience who had come to witness the beautiful sounds of classical music performed by two great players. Besides the personalities for the night, the stage complemented the event as drapes of different colours were used to create a vibrant ambience and reflected the mood of the pieces played. Starting with the Red Priest (Antonio Vivaldi) piece sonata No. 6 in B-flat major, Mbanefo flaunted his command of the black and white keys of the piano, creating different colours of music in the four movement piece, Mbanefo set up a rhythmic tone with accompaniments beyond imagination.

He was later joined on stage by the cello maestro Kanitz,  who displayed an unequivocal dexterity as both played one of the greatest composers Ludwig van Beethoven’s sonata for violoncello and piano, A-Major, Op. 69 piece. Starting off with the violoncello, Kanitz maintained a striking balance as him and Mbanefo went back and forth with the three movement piece in a melodic interplay. A bit melancholic, this symphony ostentatiously captured the innate strength of the instrumentalists.

Mbanefo and Kanitz on stage at Muson
Mbanefo and Kanitz on stage at Muson

They both returned on stage after a brief interval to play the contemporary Nigerian composer Pemi Oludare piece, ‘Irapada’. This was followed by Schubert’s impromptu for piano.  Schubert is famous for his impromptus which are eight in series. Playing Op. 90 and G major, Mbanefo again showed his astounding finesse on the piano.

For the next twenty minutes, Mbanefo and Kanitz entertained the audience with a powerful rendition of Schubert’s Sonata ‘Arpeggione’ in A minor. This three movement piece is the only substantial composition for the Arpeggione which exists today. Enticing the audience with its crescendos and decrescendos, the players showed a fine, if not aggressive dialogue of the piano and violoncello. This particular piece was composed during Schubert’s deteriorating health and was specifically designed for bowed strings guitar but there have been contemporary transcriptions with the cello and viola.

Though grim in nature, Mbanefo and Kanitz added a scintillating touch to this piece with its breezy and romantic rhythm. Kanitz particularly exuded a ravishing glow with his fingers on the violoncello, breathing in the rhythm as he creates resplendent beautiful sounds. Mbanefo on his part tried to maintain balance, meeting up with the demand of the violoncello as he struck the keys with vigor as if he was dueling with Kanitz. This brilliant piece earned them a standing ovation and an encore.

The reputable lawyer built his passion for the piano at an early age of six. He received his first piano lesson from a church organist in Onitsha and had remained faithful to the instrument ever since. While studying law at Queens College, Cambridge University, he attended music lessons and performed in various concerts at the University. He is also one of the founding members of the Musical Society of Nigeria and has served in various committees of the body. He is currently the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of St Saviours’ Schools Ikoyi and Ebutte Metta and also the Director of the Sickle Cell Foundation of Nigeria.

Kanitz is well known for his versatile musical background as an illustrious performer. The German player is notable for his vast knowledge as a composer, instructor and performer as well. He is the Artistic Director and Conductor of the Muson Symphony Orchestra.


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