September 2013 // What’s Happening In Dar Magazine // Petronel Malan
“Franz Lizst was a rock star. [If] he left coffee at the bottom of his cup, women saved the coffee and carried it in flasks around their necks. If he dropped a cigar butt on the street corner, women dashed over and carried it on their bodies. In those days pianists came out to the piano with long gloves, and when Liszt came out and put the gloves down there was a modern-day mosh pit, the way women were rushing to grab a piece of those gloves. If you keep in mind that Mozart was 5’2”, Hayden about 5’4…Liszt was 6 feet tall. He was a handsome man. If I am not on tour October 22 every year, I back a piano-shaped cake for him, I love him.”
Professional pianist Petronel Malan painted a portrait of a rock star, a modern day Justin Bieber, if you will. Her love for the composers as well as classical theory was only rivaled by her brilliance on the instrument itself. During a concert at the Hyatt Kilimanjaro one Sunday in late August, Ms. Malan shared this love and her talent with an intimate audience of approximately 140 students, teachers, and friends of IST. Doors opened at 6pm with a cash bar and light snacks, and a well-dressed crowd gathered in Hyatt’s carpeted mezzanine. Ms. Malan was in Tanzania on her first visit to the country, a special visit arranged by IST, made possible in conjunction with the Double Tree Hilton, South Africa Airways, and the Hyatt Kilimanjaro.
In between playing elaborate pieces where her fingers moved about the entirety of a grand piano keyboard, she shared endearing stories, like the one above, about Franz Lizst. The audience learned about Hungarian Rhapsodies and their traditional two-part structures. She defined, to the non-music students in the audience, what it meant to transcribe a classical piece. Her knowledge about composers ran deep, as she told an abbreviated life story about schizophrenic genius composer Robert Schumann. She warned the audience of the near-thirty minute piece that would precede the intermission, smiling as she spoke fondly about her lawyer father who told her she should always warn her audience about these things.
An evening with Ms. Malan was not a boring classical piano recital as one might think; it was more like a cozy night by the fire with a longtime friend. In between sets, Malan’s humble nature and light-hearted approach to an otherwise serious classical genre made sitting through a two-hour classical piano recital an interesting and heartwarming experience for both children and adults in attendance.
Sunday was the final engagement of a busy week for the Ms. Malan. Throughout the week, the grammy-nominated, international acclaimed pianist immersed herself in the IST community by hosting master classes and assembly performances. “What I’ve enjoyed the most in the past few days is witnessing her passion and delight in the stories behind the music as well. It makes it come alive for us.” commented IST Director Martin Hall at her Sunday performance. He later added, “this is not something we have every Sunday evening in Dar es Salaam”. And he was right, it’s not often that crowds in this city are as lucky as they were to have such a talented visiting concert pianist perform, certainly not in such an intimate setting, and certainly not with such vivid stories of history, love, and drama that came along.
IST awards ten full tuition scholarships each year to low-income Tanzanian students wishing to pursue their studies at IST. Proceeds from the concert benefit the IST Scholarship Fund, recently established to help these scholarship winners with non-tuition costs associated with studying at a secondary school such as IST. Past scholarship recipients have gone on to study at universities around the world, continuing as respected professionals in various fields.