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.