Los Angeles Music Preview: BEHZOD ABDURAIMOV & RACHMANINOFF’S THIRD CONCERTO (LA Phil, Krzysztof Urbański conductor, at the Hollywood Bowl)

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by Tony Frankel on August 9, 2017

in Music,Theater-Los Angeles


Pianist Behzod Abduraimov is coming to the Hollywood Bowl this Tuesday August 15, 2017, so prepare yourself for one of the world’s greatest pianists. In fact, the in-demand, rightfully popular 26-year-old Uzbek pianist, who was born in Tashkent in 1990 just before the collapse of the Soviet Union, may just deliver one of the most memorable concerts of the year performing Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3.

I am happy to say that my instincts were correct: When Abduraimov appeared in his Disney Hall debut as a last-minute replacement in 2014, I knew he was the real thing. They don’t appear often, these fresh-to-the-scene soloists who completely enrapture—those who combine the old-school magnetic quality of superlative technique with energetic experimentation, soul, and discovery. That October night, Abduraimov offered a white-knuckle, pulsating performance of Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3, a notoriously demanding piano score with many rhythmic challenges.

Then I saw him back at Disney Hall as he once again brought a sense of his own personal reformation and combined it with the majesty and power of the classical Russian spirit, but with a French composer: Saint-Saëns’ Piano Concerto No 2 was extraordinarily well-suited to Abduraimov’s temperament. The romance, wit, passion, and declaration was just the beginning.

Abduraimov’s attack on the trills was thrilling, and he ran through the arpeggios as if he were skipping rocks on the water. His playing was full of attack where required, but also sincere and emotional in the concerto’s more tranquil passages, especially the moody, bittersweet opening passage.

So watch out for what he’ll do with the Rach 3. Partly due to its inclusion in the biopic Shine, Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 has become far more popular in the repertoire, even though it is considered to be one of the most technically challenging concertos ever written (even Rachmaninoff needed to practice up to pull it off). This is because of its enormous chords (typical of Rachmaninoff’s works) which are gruelingly intersected with breakneck fingering. Popular thinking subscribes to the notion that Rachmaninoff should be tackled by Russian pianists with hands the same size as his enormous paws, but Abduraimov, whose hands appear to be half the size of Rachmaninoff’s, has the most amazing super-hero stretching hands. You must see this young master—you won’t think of pianists or the Rach 3 in the same way again.

Also on the program, conducted by Krzysztof Urbański, is Modest Mussorgsky’s extraordinarily popular Pictures at an Exhibition.

photos courtesy of LA Phil; headshot photo by Christian Fatu

Los Angeles Philharmonic
Krzysztof Urbański, conductor
Bezhod Abduraimov, pianist
The Hollywood Bowl
Tuesday, August 15 at 8pm
for tickets, call 323.850.2000 or visit The Hollywood Bowl

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