Behzod Abduraimov joins Alpha for several recordings, starting with this ‘kaleidoscope of miniatures’ – miniatures that are in fact fairly gigantic, and showcase the Uzbek pianist’s extreme virtuosity and sensitivity. ‘Each movement is in itself a miniature, and taken together they form a kaleidoscope of human emotions and images of all kinds,’ says Behzod Abduraimov. In his view, the pieces in Debussy’s Children’s Corner are not intended for young piano students, but ‘for adults, so that they can immerse themselves in the world of children with a little nostalgia and a lot of humor.’ When it comes to Chopin, ‘each prelude has a different musical essence, creates its own atmosphere. Together they form an arc spanning the distance from the first prelude to the last. So I tried to consider them as a whole.’ Finally, Mussorgsky evokes in ten highly expressive movements the paintings at an exhibition held in posthumous tribute to his friend Viktor Hartmann. A ‘Promenade’ heard several times suggests Mussorgsky himself strolling through the exhibition. For Behzod Abduraimov, the “Promenades” play a key role in this cycle: they create the atmosphere before each painting.
Each of the three works that Behzod Abduraimov presents in this program consists of small, strongly individual pieces that ultimately add up to more than the sum of their parts. Abduraimov’s impressive interpretations bear this out; he manages to tap into each piece’s character, while unifying them by way of timing and carefully thought out tempo relationships.
In Debussy’s Children’s Corner, for example, the pianist’s measured pace allows breathing room to his distinctions between legato and detached articulation. The foreground and background components emerge in clear and consistent perspective throughout Jimbo’s Lullaby and Serenade for the Doll, while the clipped phrasing of Golliwog’s Cakewalk conveys more bite and rhythmic spring than usual.
Even in a catalog awash with distinctive Chopin Preludes cycles, Abduraimov’s stellar technique, intelligent musicianship, and feeling for nuance stand out. Note No. 3’s alluringly shaded left-hand runs, No. 5’s cross-rhythmic definition, and the crystalline shimmer of No. 8’s busy textures. Abduraimov’s fleet poise in virtuoso showpieces like Nos. 16, 19, 22, and 24 veer closer to the classicism of Pollini’s 1974 traversal than to the improvisatory Argerich or Arrau’s epic dynamism.
A few textual observations: Unlike Pollini, who executes No. 9’s controversial dotted eighth- and 16th-note pattern to conform to the accompanying triplet, Abduraimov plays it as written. However, like Pollini (as well as Alfred Cortot and Ivan Moravec), Abduraimov favors the “traditional” E-natural on the final beat of No. 20’s third measure, rather than the “controversial” Urtext E-flat that Arrau, Rudolf Serkin, and Alexandre Tharaud prefer.
If anything, Abduraimov opens himself more to the inherent drama in Mussorgsky’s Pictures, yet without doing violence to the music. It’s true that the pianist reinforces octaves here and there, and adds effective right-hand tremolos to Gnomus, yet such emendations enhance rather than distract from Mussorgsky’s intentions. Abduraimov’s steady tread in the Promenades allows the music’s asymmetry to speak for itself. He takes his time over Bydlo’s oxcart ostinatos, yet never drags, and eschews the capricious and cutesy tempo changes that younger pianists deem necessary in the Unhatched Chicks Ballet.
The repeated notes of Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuÿle are as perfectly aligned and voiced as the rapid alternating chords of the Limoges Marketplace coda. And to hear how one can produce massively resonating sonorities without banging, check out The Great Gate at Kiev’s climactic pages. Debussy, Chopin, and Mussorgsky add up to a triumphant triumvirate in Abduraimov’s hands, together with Alpha’s first-class engineering.
– ClassicsToday.com (10/10; Jed Distler)