Fort Worth — Uzbeki pianist Behzod Abduraimov, 26, plays Carnegie Hall next Thursday; a week before that, on Nov. 10 on The Cliburn’s concert series at the Kimbell Art Museum, he proved himself a pianist well worthy of his growing international reputation.
From the opening phrase of the first work—Alfred Cortot’s piano transcription of the Siciliano from Bach’s Organ Concerto in D minor—Abduraimov demonstrated total command of every aspect of pianism. This included a controlled but widely varied tone quality as well as a constantly original interpretive. A second Bach transcription—Busoni’s piano version of the famous Toccata and Fugue in D minor for organ—further displayed the pianist’s skill in creating a symphonic range of colors.
Movements 2 and 3 from the six Moments Musicaux of Schubert’s Opus 94 provided an intriguing contrast and further testimony of Abduraimov’s emotional and technical range. No. 2 in A-flat presents an uneasy rocking motion with barely a ray of sunshine (despite the major key), with Abduraimov showing off an extraordinarily delicate pianissimo; in No. 3 in F minor, he created a lighthearted aura in this simple, folklike movement.
These quick sketches aside, Abduraimov launched into Beethoven’s Appassionata Sonata, proving himself a pianist capable of taking on this oft-played masterpiece with originality and breadth. The work itself is famously dark in tone; Abduraimov found brilliance as well—for instance, in the downward arpeggio figure that precedes the recapitulation section of the first movement. Once again, in the final movement, he created an orchestral range of dynamics and tone colors.
Abduraimov began the second half of the program with the rocket-fire opening motif of Prokofiev’s Sixth Sonata, one of three sonatas completed by Prokofiev during (and reflective of) the tumult of World War II. An ominous beauty rises out of this stormy four-movement work, and Abduraimov captured its complete range of emotions, from the sad lyricism of the third movement to the almost humorous lightness that opens the Finale.
Balakirev’s Islamey, one of the greatest of all virtuoso showpieces, provided the closing work; once again, Abduraimov ranged across a wonderful array of colors, boldly diving into the whirlwinds of the opening section, then caressing the seductive melody of the Tranquillo middle section before tearing into the hurricane of notes with which the work closes. An enthusiastic audience demanded an encore; Abduraimov obliged with the calm lyricism of Tchaikovsky’s Nocturne in D minor.
In terms of his musical artistry, Abduraimov is irreproachable; however, the showbiz aspects, though a miniscule part of a pianist’s job, could use a little polish. He’s visually disdainful of the audience, giving us few clues that he notices or cares about us. And, well, he hums along with the music sometimes: not a fatal flaw, but definitely an irritating distraction from his intensely powerful playing.