Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Behzod Abduraimov, at People’s Symphony Concerts

Your correspondent has been attending People’s Symphony Concerts for well-nigh 25 years, and one of the many attendant pleasures is seeing emerging masters before they become household names.

Such a pleasure was on hand last Saturday while watching pianist Behzod Abduraimov in a concert that could only be called magical.

Born in Tashkent in 1990 Behzod began to play the piano at the age of five. He was a pupil of Tamara Popovich at the Uspensky State Central Lyceum in Tashkent, and studied with Stanislav Ioudenitch at the International Center for Music at Park University, Kansas City, where he is now Artist in Residence.

Clad in a simple black shirt and slacks, Abduraimov opened with Four Impromptus for Piano, D. 935 by Franz Schubert (1797-1828), a performance of wonderful subtlety and delicacy.  His playing went from lightly (indeed, liltingly) melodic to melancholy and back with effortless transition.  The Impromptus are a challenge to even the most accomplished player, and Abduraimov played with all the sensitivity of a man three times his age.

He followed with the Mephisto Waltz No. 1, S. 514, by Franz Liszt (1811-1886), a performance filled with drama and passion.  Abduraimov did not play the piano as much as he assaulted it … providing the dual pleasure of listening and watching the performance.  A showman as much as a musician, Abduraimov understand the body language of great playing, and the crowd rose to loud and rapturous applause at the end of the piece.

Abduraimov concluded with Pictures at an Exhibition, by Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881).  Here is, of course, a splendid showcase for the young pianist’s many talents.  Mussorgsky guides the listener through a series of painting, each eliciting separate and distinctive emotions.  It is a great test of virtuosity, and Abduraimov rose to the occasion splendidly.  This is surely a great talent who will leave his mark on the classical music world.

A word now about Peoples’ Symphony Concerts, founded in 1900 by the conductor Franz Arens to bring the world’s finest music to students and workers for minimum prices.  That winter, more than 7,000 people swarmed Cooper Union to hear Arens, the son of an immigrant farmer, conduct his series of five Peoples' Symphony Concerts.  Subscriptions for the five concerts ranged from $.25 to $1.25 and single tickets went for as little as $0.10 each.

Arens himself started out a poor student in Europe who had been too broke to attend many concerts.  When Arens returned to New York, he was determined to find a way to bring music to students, teachers, workers, and others unable to pay standard ticket prices.  Since those early years, hundreds of thousands of Peoples' Symphony Concerts audience members have heard the world's foremost concert artists and ensembles at the lowest admission prices of any major series in the country.

During many years of attending, Your Correspondent heard such masters as Richard Goode, Garrick Ohlsson, and Marc-Andre Hamelin.  There are three concert series, two taking place on Saturday evenings at the spacious (and newly-renovated) theater at Washington Irving High School in Gramercy Park, and one on Sunday afternoons at Town Hall in midtown Manhattan.

Many of my readers support the New York Metropolitan Opera, WQXR and/or Tanglewood, but few seem to know this wonderful resource for people who are serious about music.

There are still tickets available for this season; visit http://pscny.org  or call (212) 586-4680 for more information.  

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