I first heard Behzod Abduraimov last year at La Roque and was, frankly, captivated by his dynamic pianism and fabulous touch. Not since Andrei Gavrilov at his peak in the 1980’s had I heard such technique and command of tone colour combined with such excellent musicianship.
The benchmark was therefore set high for his Rachmaninov Third on Sunday night. It is an enormous concerto, a knucklebreaker, as Gary Graffman used to call it. It requires lyricism, introspection and a fabulous technique. There were many things to admire. Mr. Abduraimov can illuminate the most complex figuration in the most delightful manner, can play simply when required, and can deliver jaw-dropping bravura if he feels so inclined. Building tension and releasing it in a lengthy structure is a different matter. The first movement cadenza should unleash hell, but it should also give the most magnificent and, paradoxically, orchestral statement of the first subject thus far. This account did the first without completely succeeding in the second. There seems to be a tendency amongst pianists these days to needlessly accent bass octaves and chords, or even bass voices, losing balance and tone quality against the treble. Raw metallic sounds are the result: however good this might sound sat at the keyboard, from the stalls it sounds awful.
The slow movement was beautifully done and the last movement was electric. If the deepest nobility of some of the music seemed to elude the performers, no doubt, this may come in time. As an encore, we were treated to Mr. Abduraimov’s La Campanella, a tour-de-force of virtuosity and sheer musicality. Nobody plays it better, maybe no-one can play it half as well. It is virtuosity that is phenomenal, clear, clean, unsmudged, bright: exactly, as I felt last year, something that announces a really special pianistic gift. Let’s hope that he finds the repertoire to exploit his special genius, one can easily imagine him bored. It is thrilling seeing such a talent rising to such challenges, let’s hope his career continues along such a fruitful and productive trajectory.