A standing ovation for Alim Beisembayev with masterly performances of Clementi and Chopin. Aristocratic performances where the young 17 year old youth I had heard at the Purcell School a few years ago has blossomed and grown into a great artist. I had heard him play the same programme last June at that piano Mecca in Perivale.
But today after his triumph in Leeds this was an even more assured performance. Chopin 24 Preludes were quite simply one of the most moving and memorable that I have ever heard in public or on disc ( Cortot excepted of course). A Clementi sonata of scintillating streams of golden sounds that just made one wonder why is this music not more often played.
An encore of ‘Chasse Neige’ by Liszt that was truly a wonder and summed up the artistry of this young artist with his transcendental technical control. Imagination and kaleidoscopic sense of colour that added to his youthful passion and uninhibited sense of style was nothing short of sensational.
There were so many wondrous things, that like listening to that other Leeds winner Murray Perahia, he had you listening afresh as his uncontaminated interpretation from Chopin’s own hand was turned into musical sounds that were at once fresh and amazingly original. I was asked to review this concert but all I can do is point to some of the landmarks that I have lived with all my life but now find myself in a magic land of wondrous sounds and aristocratic comments that I had not visited before.
The opening sounded like a magic harp just glowing in intensity as jewel like sounds seemed to appear in its midst like magic. There was the languid beauty of the second and the fleeting lightness of the third, a final flourish led to the sublime beauty of the fourth with the bass pulsating like a heartbeat of searing intensity. Such liquid sounds in the fifth that were shaped into clouds of sound. The sublime sixth with the ending a magical disappearance on a cloud of pedal as Chopin himself had indicated. There was grace and elegance with an extraordinary sense of timing in the seventh as we were enveloped in the streams of romantic sounds of the eighth. A build up of tension of aching intensity before the etherial coda. There was great architectural shape to the ninth with a truly surprise entry of the bass which lent such aristocratic nobility to a prelude often considered as ‘also ran’. Scintillating ‘jeux perlé’ of the tenth and subtle colouring and beauty of legato of the eleventh. The frenzied dance of the twelfth was astonishing for its clarity and total technical command but even more for its mazurka like characterisation that I have never been aware of in the usually laboured or virtuoso bravura performances that are the norm in lesser hands. Wondrous sense of melodic line in the thirteenth and fifteenth – the so called ‘raindrop ‘ prelude – with a middle section where the continuous tolling of a bell (as in Ravels Le Gibet ) I had never been aware of before today’s performance.
The B flat minor n.16 was astonishing for its sweeping sounds of transcendental difficulty. But even at this breakneck speed you could see Alim slightly lift his arm and place it with a disarming mastery that I have only ever seen from Arrau or Gilels. The palpitations of the seventeenth immediately entered on the final vibrations of the three carefully placed chords. The deep bass notes at the end I have never heard played so simply or to such effect as today. A wonderful moving melodic line to the nineteenth just belied the enormous technical demands as it was allowed to unwind so naturally with disarming authority. Aristocratic control of sound in the twentieth,so short but used by many composers as the basis of variations for its seemingly simple construction. Such passionate streams of sound in the twenty second where one was not aware that it is familiarly known as the octave prelude. You see such was Alim’s identification with the musical world of Chopin that his total mastery allowed him to concentrate on the purely musical meaning of a work that Fou Ts’ong used to describe as 24 problems. The pastoral simplicity – au bord d’une source springs to mind – of the penultimate prelude as streaks of lightening and red hot blazing sounds took us to the final devastating three notes deep in the bass.
What to say of the marvel of Clementi – a magic box of jewels made to gleem and shine in Alims hands. Scales that were streams of gold and silver combined with ethereal sounds and a musicianship that never left the great architectural shape that was being created by his magic fingers. ‘Il lento e patetico’ was played with the weight that I have only heard from the greatest interpreters. Whirlwind sounds in the Presto with a fabulous ‘jeux perle’ of lightness and ‘joie de vivre’ that was the vocabulary of the pianists of the Golden era of piano playing and until today rarely even hinted at especially with Alim’s good taste and aristocratic sense of style created together with his mentor of the past ten years Tessa Nicholson and the unforgettable school of Fou Ts’ong who has inspired so many generations of aspiring young musicians.