Uzbek pianist Behzod Abduraimov made his Australian debut in 2012, having burst onto the scene only three years prior with his triumph at the 2009 London International Piano Competition at the age of 18. Still shy of 30, the pianist has made relatively regular appearances in Australia (he was in Perth earlier this year), where he’s been unfailingly praised for his virtuosity and musical maturity. Both of these qualities were on display and more in this performance of Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto with French conductor Lionel Bringuier, Abduraimov giving a powerhouse performance of the Russian warhorse.
Behzod Abduraimov. Photo © Evgeny Eutykhov
Abduraimov was commanding from the outset, following the SSO’s imperious horns with pealing chords, the pianist dispatching his solos with glittering athleticism. Bringuier unleashed the full might of the orchestra in the tuttis, and there was never a hint that the pianist might be overpowered – if anything it felt at times that the orchestra was pushing to match his volume and intensity. The pianist brought a rippling, articulate beauty to the second movement – opening with a pastoral solo of simple beauty from flautist Joshua Batty, over pizzicato strings – and if this account was slightly more forceful than, say, the sensitive lyricism of Martha Argerich, it was nonetheless compelling in its exacting detail and thoughtful shaping. The finale was all boisterous energy and crisp flourishes from the pianist, alongside barnstorming tuttis from the SSO. A thrilling performance.
The Tchaikovsky was balanced at the other end of the program by Rachmaninov’s Symphony No 2, in an expansive reading by Bringuier. The conductor unspooled Rachmaninov’s long-breathed melodies with an eye for the big picture, carefully building the first movement to the storm of swirling strings and thundering brass and percussion at its climax. The Scherzo, infused with the darkness of the Dies irae chant, sparkled with horns and racing strings, while the slow movement was achingly romantic, Bringuier once again deftly pacing the climaxes, before dispatching a celebratory finale. The SSO gave an accomplished, passionate performance throughout, with Alexandre Oguey’s dark, soulful cor anglais solo in the first movement and Francesco Celata’s tender solo in the Adagio just two of many fine solo moments.