Pianist Behzod Abduraimov. (credit: Evgeny Eutykhov)

Review: Behzod Abduraimov shines in long-awaited Spivey Hall debut

Mark Gresham | 23 JAN 2020

On Sunday afternoon pianist Behzod Abduraimov made his first solo recital appearance Spivey Hall with a brilliant performance of music by Chopin, Debussy and Mussorgsky.

It’s not for lack of trying to get him there. After he made his Atlanta debut at age 21 with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in April 2012, when he performed Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No. 1, Abduraimov was booked to close Spivey Hall’s 26th anniversary season (in 2016) bit had to cancel due to illness. The Atlanta Symphony had booked him again for March 2018, when he performed Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3. Spivey Hall was finally able to re-book the young Uzbeck piano sensation for Sunday’s appearance, and it was well worth the wait.

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Abduraimov opened with the complete Preludes, Op. 24, of Frédéric Chopin, and showed a willingness to dig into them with a bolder sound than often heard, enhancing the contrast with the most gossamer, delicate passages.

Claude Debussy’s Children’s Corner an intermission. Here Abduraimov used an overall lighter touch than in the Chopin, in that his fortes were still forte but not as forceful – a difference well suited to this music. The contrasting final number in the set, ed “Golliwog’s Cakewalk,” had all of the jaunty abandon the piece required, even if a little fast for my tastes. Playing it too fast is like when people play American ragtime too fast: it becomes frenetic and loses its natural dance-like character.


Pictures at an Exhibition by Modest Mussorgsky was the final work on the program, in which Abduraimov returned to the deep-keyed playing exhibited in the Chopin, and chose generally the faster side of tempos throughout. He leapt directly from the stately initial “Promenade” direct;linto the rambunctious “The Gnome” without pause. He did likewise with each subsequent instance of “Promenade,” with an unhesitating segue into each following number. The entire was a great virtuosic display, but felt like a fast-paced walk through the “exhibition” rather than one of taking a long time to “look” at each piece; Abduraimov never let the the music descend into abject pondering, not even with the mighty conclusion, “The Bogatyr Gates” (aka “The Great Gate of Kiev”) , where the music’s broad grandioseness can pose such risk. It proved a huge showpiece for Abduraimov, with a big “wow” factor for the listener.

Even after all that, Abduraimov returned to the stage to perform two encores that could stand string in the wake of the Mussorgsky: Rachmaninoff’s piano transcription of Tchaikovsky’s “Lullaby” in A-flat minor — No. 1 from 6 Romances, Op. 16 – followed by “La campanella,” the third of Franz Liszt’s six Grandes études de Paganini, S. 141. ■