Just minutes away from the hustle and bustle of the Southbank, down an unassuming side street, lies a black door. Upon entrance, the concert-goer is transported back in time: the venue is modelled on a 19th century salon. Opulent décor (with tones of red and gold, a fireplace and rugs) is the backdrop for an intimate musical experience, complete with convivial atmosphere. However, what the 1901 Arts Club boasts in aesthetics, it lacks in acoustics.

The venue is located close to the busy Waterloo Road, which itself is next to Waterloo Station. The sounds of traffic and trains alike filtered into the room (along with the conversations of passers-by). Just as problematic were the acoustic properties of the salon itself: its compact nature (with a seating capacity of around 50) meant that the Steinway model C baby grand felt a touch too powerful, and Renée Reznek had to work hard for quieter passages.

Mixing French, British and South African composers, Reznek’s was a colourful programme. Initially rejected by publishers for their eccentric nature, Satie’s Préludes flasques pour un chien are defined by a clarity of texture and a sense of tongue-in-cheek humour. Reznek allowed their simple lyricism to emerge and spinning out their extended lines in a suitably unaffected manner. However, some inconsistent left hand articulation and a few unsounded notes suggested that she was having trouble adjusting to the touch of the keyboard.

Introducing Book 1 of Debussy’s Images, Reznek described the pieces as having a “literary quality”. Despite this, her interpretations lacked the sense of architecture befitting of Debussy’s carefully defined structures: Reznek tended to revel in the luscious harmonies, compromising the sense of forward motion and diminishing the impact of climaxes. She overpedalled in all three movements, and, indeed, the rest of the concert: this was especially problematic in “Mouvement”, which lost its brightness and, crucially, momentum. There were some special moments, though: the arpeggios in “Reflets dans l’eau” were magical, and the veiled quality at the beginning of “Hommage à Rameau” was especially effective.

Reznek then moved onto the South African part of the programme, which began with the first of two London premières. Sadie Harrison’s Par-feshani-ye ‘Esq (The Fluttering Wings of Love) is based on a poem by Bidel (an 18th century Sufi poet), with each of the six character pieces taking a particular couplet as inspiration. Just as the poem draws the movements together on a literary level, an Afghan-Indian rag binds them together musically, appearing in a number of different guises. The movements range from quasi-Impressionistic pentatonic fluttering (the first) to laissez-faire abandon (the fifth), with the searching melody of the sixth piece drawing the set to its end with a sense of fragile hope. Although distinctly characterised, I felt slightly frustrated by Harrison’s reliance on the same techniques in multiple movements: for example, the use of left hand ostinato, or cellular repetition and expansion in the right hand.

Neo Muyanga’s hade, TaTa was the other première. This meditation on Nelson Mandela is based on a very specific programme, considering the weight of expectation placed on Madiba and society’s failure to live up to his hopes and dreams. Tracing a narrative arc from the sparse texture of the opening through a joyful dance (followed by a more flowing, gentle version), the piece culminates in a bluesy, reflective section. Muyanga’s writing carried an honest simplicity, with an improvisatory quality and optimistic harmonic language. Although not all of the composition was successful, Reznek’s performance was full of tenderness and heart.

The three movements selected from Graham Lynch’s White Book 1 also possessed a sense of spontaneity and freedom. “Vanishing Pathways” conveyed a sense of spaciousness, with white-note harmonies gradually coloured by intruding chromaticisms. “Night Garden” was similarly understated, with unexpected harmonic directions adding interest to Lynch’s musings, before “The Emperor’s Field” again drew on resonant, open harmonies and contemplative repetition. The meditative quality of the pieces meant that a sense of direction was absent: although pleasant to listen to, they lacked substance.

Two movements from Hendrik Hofmeyr’s Partita Africana brought the programme to its close. The “Preludio” makes use of the piano’s natural resonance by depressing keys without sounding them. After an opening section juxtaposes the powerful left hand with a fragile idea in the upper register, a sombre fugal passage builds to a dissonant, forceful climax reminiscent of the opening. With its lively rhythms and constant modulation, the infectious energy of the “Umsindo” was certainly a festive conclusion.

Reznek’s encore of a Zulu lullaby transcription again displayed the fondness and warmth with which she brought to the repertoire of her home country. Although by no means a perfect concert experience, the recital was certainly a memorable chance to hear some lesser-known repertoire.