Behzod Abduraimov studied at the local International Center for Music at Park University, a few miles outside Kansas City, so he is in the way of being a local. He is still artist-in-residence there, and this recital was offered by the University. His programming choices played to his immense strengths in exploring the dark forests of musical interiority. Subtlety of interpretation was the overall impression I got throughout tonight’s performance. Here was someone who was playing from a deep place, allowing us inside complex, opaque music, not so that we could simplify complex things (far from it), but so that we could appreciate their very complexity and, even, lack of resolution. This was fifty shades of grey playing, if you will: nothing was black and white. 

Behzod Abduraimov
© Evgeny Eutykhov

César Franck’s Prelude, Fugue and Variation was beautifully rendered, with a limpid simplicity in the recurring melody and a restrained elegance that opened the evening with a kind of refined gravity of its own. 

This was followed by Uzbek composer Dilorom Saidaminova’s 1973 work, The Walls of Ancient Bukhara. I was not familiar with the work, but was very taken with it. The five impressionistic movements suited Abduraimov’s exquisitely intense style; he has the knack, it would seem, of unlocking esoteric music enough so that we can enter in, but still keeping a sense of shrouded mystery. There aren’t easy answers or resolutions; his playing captured layers and ambivalence and the incompleteness of things. The mystery remains a mystery. It is a piece about walls, after all. I loved in particular the spiky attack of the second movement’s Tomb of Ismail-Samani

Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit was spiritual kindred to Saidaminova’s work, albeit from the previous century. Ondine was exquisitely full of undulations up and down the keyboard. Le Gibet was another of those pieces which withholds as much as it tells, and Abduraimov’s interpretation was spot-on. In Scarbo, the pianistic frenzies were magnificent – large and forceful, but never out of control. 

For the second half, Abduraimov chose two preludes by Rachmaninov, Op.32 no. 5 in G major and Op.23 no. 5 in G minor. I loved the aggressive intensity of the latter and its endearingly careless, throw-away ending. Afterwards, he played Ten Pieces from Romeo and Juliet by Prokofiev, capturing quasi-orchestral forces in exploring the timbres and tones of the Shakespearean tragedy. 

This was a well-chosen, intentionally profound program, matched with a mature talent, wonderful to hear.