When pianist Behzod Abduraimov first appeared in Vancouver, he was apparently so well received by the audience that he was immediately re-engaged. And so Abduraimov, only 24 years old (and looked younger), appeared on the stage of Vancouver’s Chan Centre for the Performing Arts yesterday afternoon.
Abduraimov opened his recital with Beethoven’s Sonata in A-flat Major, Op. 26. Well played as it was, I could not help wondering if this was a new work in the pianist’s repertoire. The sound was, from where I sat, unfocused, and there could have been a far greater range in dynamic as well as tonal palette. To my ears, it sounded like the young pianist is still in the process of assimilating the work – by assimilating I do not mean learning the notes, but really getting into the core of the musical and emotional essence of the work. Of course, with any great work of art, interpretation is always a work in progress. I would love to hear him play the same work again in a few years.
I enjoyed very much his playing of Chopin’s Fantasie in F Minor, Op. 49. Abduraimov has a natural feeling for this music, and he beautifully conveyed the somber as well as the impetuous qualities in this great work. With Chopin’s large-scale works, there is always the danger of the music becoming an unrelated series of beautiful episodes. I therefore really appreciated the sense of unity, of an organic whole, that Abduraimov brought to the work.
The first half of the recital ended with a stunning performance of Saint-Saens’ Danse Macabre, as arranged by Liszt and Horowitz. According to David Dubal, author of Evenings With Horowitz, Mr. Horowitz never wrote down any of his arrangements and transcriptions, so Abduraimov must have learned the work by ear. As much as I never really enjoy such pianistic acrobatics, it was a stunning and sensational performance. Abduraimov tossed off the work, with its super-human technical demands, as if it was child’s play, and gave it a truly glittering, spectacular performance. In return, he received a well-deserved ovation from the near capacity audience.
After intermission, the young artist shared with us his interpretation of two Schubert Impromptus, Op. 90, No. 3, followed by No. 2 from the same set. In the Impromptu in G-flat Major, Op. 90, No. 3, Abduraimov played the melodic line beautifully, giving us the sense that the music is floating. I do, however, feel that the inner accompaniment figures in the right hand, which provide the harmony for the work, was far too unclear. For me, part of the incredible beauty of this work lies in the clarity of the middle voice. As it was, the music became only two-dimensional. The E-flat Major Impromptu, Op. 90, No. 2 was given an exciting, forward-moving performance, but I again feel that the opening section was a little over-pedaled, robbing it a bit of its clarity, and perhaps lightness.
Abduraimov ended his recital with a stunning performance of Ravel’s tone poem for piano, Gaspard de la nuit, with ravishing sounds and incredible pianism. I did feel that he could have made more of the dramatic possibilities of the Scarbo movement. Pianistically, the playing was perfect, and I appreciated the fervor he brought to this justly popular work.
Even with a justly deserved ovation from the enthusiastic audience, Abduraimov declined to play any encores. Perhaps he wanted to leave us to savor the frightening tonal visions that Ravel had given us. Behzod Abduraimov is a very gifted pianist with great potential, perhaps still, like many young artists, still in the process of “finding his way”. I hope that he will be able to set aside time to work, to think, to search, and to continue to find his way.
Rather to be still finding his way than to take the easy way out.