Carolina Performing Arts presented Uzbek-born pianist Behzod Abduraimov in recital April 18 in the Moeser Auditorium at UNC’s Hill Hall. I don’t remember having been as moved by a pianist since I heard the young Vladimir Ashkenazy play Chopin in 1969. At that time, he would have been just a few of years older than the 27-year-old Abduraimov is now (of course, Ashkenazy looked mature to me then; Abduraimov looks so very young to me now). It is such a splendid age for music-making in artists who’ve achieved mastery so young. Their technical strengths and abundant energies disciplined, they can go exploring, pushing their potential for subtlety and power in emotional expression.
Before the concert, I met in the lobby a gentleman who is on the board of the International Center for Music in Kansas City–he had brought a friend to hear Abduraimov, who he has known as student and now artist-in-residence there. This man was effusive in his enthusiasm, saying that Abduraimov was very special, the kind of pianist who comes along rarely, one who illuminated disciplined technical brilliance with soul.
The Bach was beautiful, infused with warmth and wit; the Schubert sorbet was smooth and refreshing; the Beethoven “Appassionata” was the most beautiful and heart-touching rendition I have ever heard. The lower notes were matte, almost velvety, umber and burnt sienna, ivory black, while the high notes were crystalline sapphire and amethyst; the middle range was occupied by the strange blue-greens of a Caspar David Friedrich painting, and vermillion and amber flashed out of their shadows. It was very Romantic. But the amazing thing was not the passionate Romanticism but the joyous, youthful buoyancy that propelled the music over its own rocks and chasms.
The entire audience leapt to its feet at its conclusion, and Abduraimov had to take three bows before the intermission.
After intermission came Prokofiev’s Sonata for Piano no. 6 in A Major, Op. 82, which also provided an ample field for Abduraimov’s enormous talent. The third movement, Tempo di valzer lentissimo, was particularly beautiful, especially at the instant it changed, shooting out like a champagne cork, into the fourth movement Vivace. After taking several more bows, Abduraimov concluded the evening with an encore, the Nocturne from Tchaikovsky’s Six Pieces for Piano, op. 19. It was a perfect concert.
That it was perfect is due in part to the wonderful room. The acoustics are excellent, and can be varied to suit the music. It has good sight lines and is very comfortable–and holds just 450. It is within the UNC-CH Music Dept., and some of CPA’s more intimate events are now held there. By next season, the word will have gotten around that this is a great venue, so pay attention if you want to hear anything there and get your tickets early.