Coudert Institute presents Alexander Beridze in Review

Coudert Institute presents Alexander Beridze in Review

Alexander Beridze, piano
Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, New York, NY
November 12, 2014

Georgian pianist Alexander Beridze played a recital with great passion and excitement on November 12 at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall; the program of standard repertoire was touchingly dedicated to the memory of his mother. I wonder if the works chosen were favorites of hers. Mr. Beridze was presented by the Coudert Institute, a Palm Beach “think tank”, whose motto is “subjects that matter with people who make a difference,” that also supports the arts. Amen to that.

Mr. Beridze began with Beethoven’s Sonata Op. 101 in A Major, the first of the famous “last five” sonatas, in which Beethoven simultaneously pushes music forward toward the Romantic period, while re-exploring the intricate counterpoint procedures of the Baroque. Mr. Beridze caught the delicate lyricism of the first movement perfectly, which begins “in the middle” of the phrase, adding numerous touches of beautiful articulation and melting legato touch. His understanding of the musical/rhetorical/emotional content of each phrase is quite deep, and he is able to bring all these together. The second movement, a truculent march marked Lebhaft (lively) still could have used a slightly more controlled tempo to allow for accuracy and clarity. Sometimes, in faster and louder movements, his enthusiasm runs away with him a bit, leading to finger slips and even memory lapses, though they don’t detour him from his expressive goal. The quasi-recitative of the third movement was rendered delicately with certain soft chords evocative of prayer or other metaphysical states, uncommonly beautiful. This led directly into the sonata/fugue hybrid fourth movement, played with brilliance, including wonderful trills.

The two Brahms Rhapsodies, Op. 79, followed. In the first, a more extended work in B Minor, Mr. Beridze’s phrasing and phrase grouping was utterly natural. He made the work sound inevitable and a lot less square and heavy than one often hears. However, in the second Rhapsody, in G Minor, the tempo was too rapid for clarity and expression, and it bordered on merely hectic and loud, and again, the memory suffered.

After intermission, he gave an electric rendering of Schumann’s “diary” of bipolar illness Kreisleriana Op 16. The eccentric, willful Kapellmeister Kreisler is a character in the novel of E.T.A. Hoffmann that had a great influence on the ever-susceptible Schumann. This work can handle an infinite range of approaches, but here Mr. Beridze’s headlong dive into the insane extremes of Schumann’s two alternate selves—Florestan (the fiery, impetuous side) and Eusebius (the dreamy poet)—were vividly contrasted. I did prefer his softer lyrical playing; it was truly poetic and lovely, whereas the “hyper” movements had less chance for subtlety, and there was definitely a missed opportunity for tenderness in the middle section of No. 1. I’ve always associated the final piece with the painting Death on a Pale Horse, with its evocation of nocturnal galloping. Although it is marked Schnell und spielend (Fast and playfully), it is the playfulness of something sinister toying with mankind. Mr.Beridze caught the disappearing nature of the nightmare perfectly.

Ideally, I would like to hear Mr. Beridze in a program that showed a greater range of piano styles and vocabularies.

He favored his sold-out crowd with one mighty encore, the Paganini/Liszt/Busoni multiple transcription and inflation of one of Paganini’s fierce violin solo caprices, La Campanella, played with even more fire and abandon than the entire recital which preceded it.

 

 


The Center for Musical Excellence Presents Winter Benefit Concert and Silent Auction in Review

Featuring Min Kwon, Alexander Beridze, Ming Xie, Heegan Lee Shzen, Diyi Tang, Miao Hou, Sydney Lazar, Lachlan Glen, and Erickson Rojas
Steinway Hall; New York, NY
December 18, 2012
 

Min Kwon

The Center for Musical Excellence (CME) is dedicated to the ideal of helping gifted artists of all nationalities realize their potential by providing them not only with top-notch training and mentoring, but with practical assistance in areas such as housing, language, and securing necessary documents.  Originally conceived to assist pianists, CME has now branched out to also accept players of all instruments and vocalists as well. Founder, Artistic and Executive Director Min Kwon headlined a group of talented artists in a benefit concert to raise money for this fine organization.  A silent auction with a variety of items, from the expected (a private concert from Ms Kwon) to the unexpected (an opportunity to watch an open-heart surgery!) awaited the highest bidders.

Such group concerts are always great fun for the audience members, who get to enjoy a variety of talented performers in crowd-pleasing works; it is a lot more stressful for the artists, however, who have to come in “cold” and be ready to go immediately.  To be judged on a few short minutes where anything can happen can be a frightening prospect. It is also difficult for the reviewer, who must make snap judgments and avoid the temptation to compare performers. If all goes well – and it did – the festive nature of the occasion rules the day.

Min Kwon and Alexander Beridze opened the concert with Variations on a Theme of Paganini for Two Pianos by Witold Lutosławski (1913-1994). Played with panache and style, this much-loved work got the night off to a great start.  Ming Xie followed with the “Alborado del Gracioso” from Miroirs of Maurice Ravel (1875-1937). At only eighteen years of age, he played with involvement and mastery far beyond his years. This is a young man who bears watching.  Heegan Lee Shzen followed with Etude –Tableaux in E-flat Minor, Op. 39, No. 5 by Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943, not 1891-1953 as the printed program stated twice– those dates are Sergei Prokofiev’s!).  Mr. Lee did not begin serious studies until age fifteen. This late start makes his achievement all the more remarkable when one considers that most players of his caliber usually began at the age of four or five. He seemed to gain confidence as he played and finished strongly.  He is a diamond in the rough who will be a pleasure to follow.  Closing the first half, Diyi Tang treated the audience to Ce qu’a vu le Vent d’Ouest (What the West Wind Has Seen) from the Préludes, Book I from Claude Debussy (1862-1918). This virtuosic tribute to Percy Shelley’s Ode on the West Wind was played with fiery intensity – a stormy wind full of raging aggressiveness.  This I believe to be the most effective approach and not the understated interpretation that I have heard from many others.  It was an exciting close to the half.

Miao Hou joined Diyi Tang to open the second half with two selections of two-piano works. The first included “Meng Songs” and “Miao Dances” from China West Suite by Chinese composer Chen Yi (b. 1953). These two movements could be described as Béla Bartók and Prokofiev mingling with the sounds of China; the Meng Songs being poignant in simplicity and the Miao Dances infectious in their energy. The pianists then swapped pianos and offered the Valse from the Second Suite for Two Pianos of Rachmaninoff. It sparkled with optimism and brightness in the hands of these two very sensitive musicians.  The youngest performer of the evening, soprano Sydney Lazar followed. Ms. Kwon told of how Ms. Lazar won the hearts of the Viennese when she was a participant in CME’s ConcertoFest in Vienna.  Her performance of “Bel Piacere” from Rinaldo by George Frederic Handel (1685-1759) showcased her lovely voice, but it was her performance as Adele singing the “Mein Herr Marquis” aria (probably much better known as “Adele’s Laughing Song”) from Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss II (1825-1899) that made it completely obvious how she won over the Viennese.  Projected with coquettish charm, it was a winning performance from start to finish. Ms. Lazar is personality plus and should have a bright future.  Her accompanist, Lachlan Glen was a star in his own right; any singer would be happy to have him as a collaborator. Erikson Rojas followed and proved to be an impressive performer in his own right. Playing Ante el Escorial by Ernesto Lecuona (1895-1963), Mr. Rojas gave an impassioned and intensely committed performance; the intensity of his performance made me forget that I am not especially fond of this piece – no small achievement! To cap off the night, Ms. Kwon joined Mr. Rojas for Libertango of Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992), played with Piazzolla’s characteristic fire.  All the performers came back for a group bow before the enthusiastic audience. Congratulations are due to all the performers and especially Ms. Kwon, whose energy and dedication has made the difference in the musical lives of so many through CME.


Alexander Beridze, pianist in Review

Alexander Beridze, pianist in Review
Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center, New York, NY
April 19, 2011
 

A large audience packed Alice Tully Hall this week to hear Georgian pianist, Alexander Beridze, representing the Cincinnati-based World Piano Competition as its 2009 Gold Medalist. In a year flooded with news stories about troubles in the classical music world, it was a joy to witness such intense audience excitement in anticipation of an evening of piano music. This listener was filled with particularly keen anticipation after hearing and reviewing Mr. Beridze in June of 2009 (Vol 17, No.1) in an outstanding recital that included two of the same works, the Brahms Sonata in C Major, Op. 1 and Stravinsky’s Three Movements from Petrushka. Though the prior venue had been a piano showroom, Mr. Beridze had sustained the large, magnetic conceptions that had seemed destined for a wider forum – and here was that forum.

After speeches by the competition’s administrative and local leaders, Mr. Beridze opened with Beethoven’s 32 Variations in C Minor, dispelling the atmosphere of pageantry with a taut and no-nonsense performance from solemn opening to stirring finish. While I prefer more breathing room in this work, it was understandable to feel a good deal of forward propulsion at the outset of this important recital. It was a strong opening.

Brahms followed Beethoven, a nice segue given the Opus 1’s famous rhythmic kinship with Beethoven’s Sonata Op. 106 (the “Hammerklavier”). Mr. Beridze is utterly at home with the challenges and beauties of this Brahms work and should play it often. One hopes he will play it again in a still more resonant hall, as (even post-renovation) the Alice Tully Hall acoustics present a pianist with the challenge of rapidly decaying sound. Having heard Mr. Beridze’s formidable gifts in a live room on a brighter instrument, this listener was especially sensitized to the discrepancy between what was being put forth and what was being received. That said, the musical intent did come across, and it was a credit to Mr. Beridze’s skill and heroic outputs of energy. The rapid-fire leaps and riveting machine wrist work left one in wonderment (and excitement to hear this pianist’s Petrushka later in the program). Just as recalled from two years ago, the close of the Andante was particularly moving.

Schubert’s Impromptu Op. 90, No. 3 after intermission was a quiet gem, given admirable attention to voicing. Acoustical challenges still arose, leaving one wondering whether the decay of longer notes might be offset more by softer ensuing ones, but at any rate, Mr. Beridze projected its meditative quality with sensitivity. The Schubert-Liszt song “Auf dem Wasser zu Singen” followed, dazzling with its precision and range, and Liszt’s Etude “La Campanella” was simply electrifying.

If anyone still had questions about Mr. Beridze being a fabulous pianist, his Petrushka settled the matter conclusively. This work, a monstrous beast to most pianists, seemed simply a play toy to him, albeit a musical and imaginative play toy. One sensed the pianist having fun with it, delighting in the ballet’s characters and celebrating what was a brilliant finale to a superb recital. Bravo!

The cheering audience was quieted down with one of the most beautiful renditions of the Chopin Nocturne in D-flat (Op. 27, No. 2) that one can recall. One could hear the proverbial pin drop.


Alexander Beridze, Piano

Alexander Beridze, piano
New York Piano Festival,
Bechstein Centre, New York, NY
June 14, 2009

As the finale of the New York Piano Festival, Alexander Beridze, founder and artistic director of the budding series, performed his own demanding solo recital. Not surprisingly, he is up to the task of wearing numerous hats, having earned degrees in both journalism (Tbilisi State University) and music (Tbilisi State Conservatory and Mannes). He is currently working towards his doctorate from Rutgers, while maintaining teaching, administrative and performing lives. Counting Vladimir Feltsman and John O’Conor among his teachers, he has won several competitions and has performed both in the U.S. and in his native Georgia.

Opening with Beethoven’s Sonata Op. 7, Mr. Beridze impressed with his laser-sharp focus, each phrase honed with intelligence.  This opus (one of this reviewer’s favorites) has subtleties that require perhaps more mature mastery than some of the sonatas heard more frequently, and in Beridze’s hands it projected as the great work that it is. He sustained intensity throughout, and, while one might have wanted more breathing at some points, it was admirable that he could keep it feeling “charged,” especially in such a casual venue.

Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit followed a drastic change of tonal worlds, well handled.

Ondine was awash in color and excellent overall, even if occasionally the melodic glimmers felt overwhelmed by the brilliant splashes. Le Gibet benefited from Mr. Beridze’s knack for shifting the spotlight from one voice to another, and Scarbo was brilliant, although not quite “over the top” with nightmarish surges as it can be (and as this listener likes).

Brahms Sonata Op. 1 in C Major suited this pianist well. High points were a heavenly close to the second movement and some almost swashbuckling moments in the third movement. The fourth movement was a bit hectic for this listener, but exciting nonetheless.

Stravinsky’s Three Movements from Petrushka, which finished the program, showed much more of the electricity that would have further enlivened Scarbo, with bright, vibrant contrasts and an imaginative dramatic sense. After what has amounted to an epidemic of Petrushka this spring, Mr. Beridze’s emerged as one of the best, steely, precise, and bristling with life.


New York Piano Festival

Alexander Beridze (Founder and Artistic Director),
Ilya Kazantsev, Ilya Yakushev, and Mai Kagaya,Pianists
Theo Lebow, tenor
Bechstein Centre
June 7, 2009

New York has a new piano consortium. It is called New York Piano Festival and was founded by Alexander Beridze, a pianist eager to expand the city’s concert life. When the Bechstein Company offered him the use of the performance space in its newly established showroom, he was able to “realize his dream.” Inviting some of his friends to join him, he planned a four-concert series for June 7, 9, 12 and 14; they include a master class of his students, a recital of his own and a two-piano program with Mai Kagaya.

The Opening Concert was shared by four pianists and a tenor, all of them young, enthusiastic and very good. It began with Rachmaninoff’s Piano Sonata No. 2, Op. 36 in B-flat minor, played by Ilya Kazantsev. A big, three-movement work, it could have been written only by a pianist intimately acquainted with his instrument’s technical and tonal resources and not afraid to make full use of them. Mr. Kazantsev reveled in the fireworks and the big, crashing chords with unbridled abandon. Later in the program, he had a chance to show his lyrical side in Schubert’s Sonata in A major Op. 120, but seemed less comfortable with its simple expressiveness than with Rachmaninoff’s boisterous vigor.

 

Tenor Theo Lebow sang the famous aria “Una furtiva lagrima” from Donizetti’s opera “L’elisir d’amore,” and five songs by Hugo Wolf on poems by Eduard Mörike. He displayed a lovely, light voice with a sweet top; the low register was somewhat dry and he tended to swell long notes. His diction in both Italian and German was excellent, and he brought out the mood and character of each song. He was empathetically partnered by Mr. Beridze, who also played a four-hand version of the Scherzo from Mendelssohn’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” with Mai Kagaya.

Finally, Ilya Yakushev played Prokofiev’s Piano Sonata No. 7, Op. 83, a fiercely percussive piece full of banging and crashing. The slow movement, however, is beautiful, with big, sonorous chords across the keyboard ringing out like bells. Unfortunately, Mr. Yakushev played them so aggressively that they lost this magical quality. The Finale is a relentlessly driving marathon in 7/8 time.

The Bechstein Center is a welcome addition to the city’s performing venues, but it may not be wise to let exuberant, powerful pianists play very loud music on an extremely bright-sounding nine-foot concert grand in that intimate space.