Alim Beisembayev on St Mary’s Teatime Classic Archive Concert Series

 

Alim Beisembayev (piano)

Bach: Prelude and Fugue in E-flat minor BWV 853

Liszt: Transcendental Etude no 12 “Chasse-neige”

Chopin: Etude in C major Op 10 no 7

Rachmaninov: Etude-tableau in D minor OP 39 no 9

Tchaikovsky: Nocturne in F major Op 10 no 1

Schumann: Études symphoniques Op 13

Alim Beisembayev (piano) was born in Almaty, Kazakhstan and started playing the piano at the age of 5. He is currently a student at the Royal Academy of Music where he is supported by a full scholarship and studies with Tessa Nicholson. Alim had numerous successes in international competitions: International Competition for Young Musicians “Nutcracker” in Moscow (1st prize, 2008), Franz Liszt International Junior Competition in Weimar, Germany (3rd prize, 2014), Junior Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas (1st prize, 2015). Alim previously attended the Central Music School in Moscow and the Purcell School for Young Musicians. He performed in halls such as the Royal Festival Hall, Purcell Room, the Great Hall of Moscow Conservatoire, Fazioli Concert Hall in Italy. In 2016, February, Alim made an appearanceon BBC’s ‘In Tune’. Alim currently studies at the Royal Academy of Music and performs chamber music as well as solo. He is also experienced in performing with orchestras such as the Evgeny Svetlanov State Symphony, Tchaikovsky State Symphony, Fort Worth Symphony.

Alim Beisembayev

at St Mary’s teatime classic archive Friday 8th May 2020

Some of the more important of the 400 concerts in the St Mary’s Archive  have been chosen by Dr Mather and his team who have devised this new series every day at teatime whilst St Mary’s is indeed ‘redundant.’Giving some glimmer of hope to young musicians (who are all offered a professional fee for the repeat performances) and  at the same time giving a great deal of pleasure to his audience.
I can watch again some of the concerts that  I was able to listen to at the time either live or by streaming to my home in Italy .But there were some  that I was not able to hear.It is a very refreshing surprise and in many ways a highlight in my present day lockdown lifestyle, that instead of catching the E 2 to perivale all I have to do is switch on my computer and enjoy the very intimate atmosphere and share in the opportunity to play  to such an eclectic audience for these superb young musicians.An opportunity that has been created by a retired but ever enthusiastic  physician in a beautiful redundant church in  West London.Musicians who are amongst the most talented in London coming to the end of their studies and  at the beginning of their careers.All they need is an attentive public to share their music with, as it is not an easy life for these young musicians that after years of dedication and sacrifice to reach their peak, they now have to struggle  in order to build a career.Apart from talent and dedication you also need resiliance and to a certain degree luck in the sense that they should always be ready to play their very best in the most trying or  even on last minute occasions.Perlemuter always used to tell me that you must always be ready and above all always play well.Cortot his teacher said exactly the same and that every time you sat at the piano you must make music as if it was for the last time and that your life depended on it.
All these consideration came to me  as I was able to listen again to Alim play a public recital five years on.
I had been invited in 2015 to the Purcell School by  Tessa Nicholson to listen to one of her students who was about to compete in the Junior Van Cliburn Competition in Texas.He had also been awarded a full scholarship to continue his studies with her at the Royal Academy in London.
I was overwhelmed by what I heard not only for the professional way he played but for the technical proficiency and  also his real  understanding and mature musicianship.Tessa Nicholson has been responsible for training some of the finest young musicians who are now emerging on the International concert stage.Mark Viner,Tyler Hay ,Menyang Pan,Kausikan Rashikumar  and now Alim are just a few that come to mind.
A programme that I imagine was a try out for another International Competition many of which have unfortunately been postponed during this corona crisis.
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A Bach Prelude and Fugue in E flat minor BWV 853 played with a beauty of sound and simplicity that immediately confirmed my impressions of five years ago.A musician who has a great technical bagage that can be called on to express and convey true musical values.This was even clearer in the Fugue where the clarity and  purity of the parts was conveyed through a very subtle use of finger legato and spare use of the sustaining pedal.There was also a bold contour to the fugue that gave a great architectural shape to this ‘knotty twine’ spun though as only the genius of  J.S.Bach could do.
Three studies followed by Liszt, Chopin  and Rachmaninov.
‘Chasse Neige’ the last of Liszt’s 12 Transcendental Studies may be called a study in tremolando but in fact in Alim’s hand became the tone poem that it truly is.Such delicacy at the beginning (as with Ondine by Ravel) in which the melodic line floated on shimmering waters.The great dramatic climax was played with all the passion of a young virtuoso but with a sumptuous full sound that was never allowed to overpower the general melodic contour.
The study in C major op 10 n.7 by Chopin hovered over the keys with all the lightness and will’o’ the wisp colours of Liszt’s Feux Follets or Chopin’s own ‘Butterfly’ study op 25 n.9.A beautiful sense of balance in the middle section allowed the melodic line to appear so naturally without any ‘in fighting’ that is so often the case with so called young virtuosi.
The sumptuous grandeur of the Rachmaninov Study in D minor was played with  a beautiful full golden  sound just as Rachmaninov demonstrates himself in his famous recording of his own work.
The three studies were played as a whole and made a very satisfying musical impression rather than the more usual barnstorming approach that the word study might have implied to lesser souls.
The Tchaikowsky Nocturne op 10 n.1 is a rarity and I think I have only heard it from the hands of Cherkassky in concert.I imagine the cat was let out of the bag at this point as this may have well been a set piece for the Tchaikowsky Competition in Moscow.
It was beautifully played with a rubato of aristocratic good taste and a sense of balance that allow the melodic line to sing with such touchingly nostalgic simplicity
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The second half of this hour long programme was dedicated to a single work by Robert Schumann.
The Etudes Symphoniques op 13.
A masterpiece in which the word study appears again as it is indeed a technical challenge for a pianist  Studies in the sense that the term had assumed in  Chopin’s op 10, that is to say, concert pieces in which the possibilities of technique and timbre  for the piano is carried out; they are ‘symphonic études’ through the wealth and complexity of the colours evoked – the keyboard becomes an “orchestra” capable of blending, contrasting or superimposing different timbres.

 The  theme had been sent to Schumann by Baron von Fricken, guardian of Ernestine von Fricken, the Estrella of his Carnaval op. 9. The baron, an amateur musician, had used the melody in a Theme with Variations for flute. Schumann had been engaged to Ernestine in 1834, only to break abruptly with her the year after.

Hardly surprising then that  Schumann thought it was unsuitable for public performance and advised his wife  Clara not to play it!The entire work was dedicated to Schumann’s English friend, the pianist and composer  William Sterndale Bennett who  played the piece frequently in England to great acclaim.

Of the sixteen variations Schumann composed on Fricken’s theme, only eleven were published by him. The final, twelfth, published étude was a variation on the theme from the Romance Du stolzes England freue dich (Proud England, rejoice!), from  Marschner’s opera based on Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe (as a tribute to Schumann’s English friend and dedicatee Sterndale Bennett). The earlier Fricken theme  does occasionally appear  during this étude and the work was first published in 1837 as XII Études Symphoniques. On republishing the set in 1890, Brahms restored the five variations that had been cut by Schumann. These are now often played, but in positions within the cycle that vary somewhat with each performance; there are now twelve variations and these five so-called “posthumous” variations which exist as a supplement.

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Alim played the original 12 Etudes Symphoniques and did not incorporate, as many do, the five posthumous variations.This gave a great architectural structure to the work and through the gradual build up and with his superb musicianship he did infact make these into truly Symphonic studies.

The simplicity and beauty of the theme and gentle question mark ending led so naturally into the lightweight scamperings in which the theme emerges with a superb sense of legato and staccato.The passionate beauty of the second variation played quite simply without any false exaggerations in the repeats but allowing the music to talk and speak for itself.The lightweight flight of the third was quite remarkable  with the melodic line so beautifully shaped in the tenor register. The third chordal study played with a forward motion  as it contrasted so well with Schumann’s  lightweight flights of capricious fancy free  invention. The passionate outburst of the fifth  was played with  impetus and impeccable technical control leading into the chords of the sixth played with great rhythmic energy and  again total control especially in the trecherous final octaves.

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The shape and structure of a  Gothic Cathedral as Agosti described the seventh showed again Alim’s real musicianship and sense of  architectural line .Allied always to a beautiful sense of contrast and colour but never forgetting the overall direction and shape of this  musically most complex of studies.The ninth study was thrown of with a Mendelssohnian ease that belies the real technical difficulties involved.The  tenth -the calm before the storm-  was played with a beautiful left hand tremolando much as he had done in the Liszt study.It allowed the melodic line and counterpoints to sing unimpeded as they conversed amongst themselves gently leading to the great passionate  outburst before dying away so magically.The finale was played with all the rhythmic impulse and romantic aplomb where his subtle sense of colour and shaping managed to shape the dotted rhythms, that Schumann too often inflicts on us, with such nobility and aristocratic control .

An encore of a Scarlatti Sonata in G showed off the crystalline technique and sense of colour together with an infectious sense of rhythmic urgency that can turn these seemingly innocent little  sonatas into  such sparkling jewels

 

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