Alim Beisembayev a Master at St Mary’s

Thursday 3 June 4.00 pm 

Clementi: Sonata in F sharp minor Op 25 no 5 Piùtosto allegro con espressione-Lento e patetico-Presto

Chopin: 24 Preludes Op 28

Here’s a link to the HD version https://youtu.be/Ao-4d3wKlEI Enjoy !

Masterly playing from Alim Beisembayev.
Chopin 24 Preludes that Fou Ts’ong exclaimed were 24 problems were played today in an unforgettable performance that I have only heard the like from Sokolov.
Listening attentively to the sounds he was producing with a total mastery that was quite overwhelming.From the opening improvisatory prelude where even from the outstart his musicianly anchor in the bass allowed such freedom for the waves of sound that he was producing above.The ‘raindrop’ prelude was a true tone poem in his magical hands.The diabolical B flat minor prelude that follows was played with unbelievable control and passionate involvement.The radiance of the A flat Prelude was like the sun coming out after the passing storm.The gentle penultimate prelude was like water gushing peacefully over a stream- au bord d’une source indeed-but who would have expected a final Allegro appassionata of such overwhelming intensity.The final three great gongs of D resonating as only a great pianist could know how.
Clementi’s F sharp minor sonata was played with a luminosity of sound from the very first notes.The almost Bachian slow movement was played with an aristocratic intensity that was deeply moving and just contrasted with the mellifluous Mendelssohnian outpouring of notes that spun from Alim’s hands with an ease and joie de vivre that was pure joy to behold.

The F sharp minor Sonata is the fifth of ‘Six Sonatas for the Piano Forte; dedicated to Mrs Meyrick … Opera 25’ (entered Stationers’ Hall, 8 June 1790)—is a work where ‘his heart and soul were engaged’ to the full.Classical it maybe but is temperamentally Romantic as Horowitz has shown us in his 1989 landmark recordings of five sonatas whilst in temporary retirement from the concert stage .Clementi was born in Rome in 1752 but in 1766 an English nobleman Sir Peter Beckford was so impressed by the young Clementi’s musical talent that he negotiated with his father to take him to his estate, Stepleton House in Dorset .Beckford agreed to provide quarterly payments to sponsor the boy’s musical education until he reached the age of 21. In return, he was expected to provide musical entertainment.After which he moved to London where audiences were impressed with his playing, thus beginning one of the outstandingly successful concert pianist careers of the period.Touring Europe it was on 12 January 1782 that Mozart reported to his father: “Clementi plays well, as far as execution with the right-hand goes. His greatest strength lies in his passages in 3rds. Apart from that, he has not a kreuzer’s worth of taste or feeling – in short, he is a mere mechanic.” In a subsequent letter, he wrote: “Clementi is a charlatan, like all Italians. He marks a piece presto but plays only allegro.”However Mozart used the opening motif of Clementi’s B-flat major sonata (Op. 24, No. 2) in his overture for The Magic Flute!From 1783 he settled in London as pianist ,conductor and teacher.One of his pupils was John Field who was to be such an influence on Chopin.He entered the publishing business and the manufacturing of pianos,a flourishing business that afforded him an increasingly elegant lifestyle. As an inventor and skilled mechanic, he made important improvements in the construction of the piano, some of which have become standard in instruments to this day.In 1826 he completed his collection of keyboard studies, Gradus ad Parnassum and set off for Paris with the intention of publishing the third volume of the work simultaneously in Paris, London, and Leipzig.He founded the Philharmonic Society in London and eventually retired with his English wife and family to Evesham where he died in 1832 at the age of 80.

There was a luminosity of sound from the very first notes in Alim’s performance with such tender question and answer in the development.Very expressive – as Clementi asks:’piùtosto allegro con espressione’-but played with such style and real understanding.The very delicate ending was a mere indication of the remarkable Lento e Patetico in B minor that was to follow.This almost Bachian lament was played with a sense of colour and inner feeling that was deeply moving .The Presto that followed owes much to Scarlatti and above all Mendelssohn with its brilliance and glittering thirds that sparkled like jewels under jeux perlé playing of such radiance and shape.

Chopin wrote the 24 Preludes between 1835 and 1839, partly at Valldemossa ,where he spent the winter of 1838–39 having fled with George Sand and her children to escape the damp Paris weather.In Majorca, Chopin had a copy of Bach’s 48 and as in each of Bach’s two sets of preludes and fugues Chopin’s Op. 28 set comprises a complete cycle of the major and minor keys, albeit with a different ordering.Each of the 24 Preludes is a little tone poem but together they have an architectural form that had Fou Ts’ong exclaiming that they are 24 problems.Not only for the pure technical difficulty of many of them but for the musicianship needed to make one unified whole of what is undoubtedly the first of the masterpieces that Chopin was to pen in his brief and tormented life.I remember how difficult Vlado Perlemuter found the very first prelude that must sound like a free improvisation but at the same time have an overall architectural shape.Liszt’s transcendental studies start with a similar flourish but the difference with Chopin is that Liszt makes a flamboyant opening gesture whereas with Chopin ,right from the first notes,there is a poetic and passionate drive that takes us into the dark brooding left hand of the second prelude.Perlemuter was to record them for Nimbus and he sat down to try out the piano before recording the next day.He did not know that the microphone was on and was relieved the next day to know that it was this improvised performance that was the one he chose in the final recording!Alim found just this sense of improvisation where the deep bass notes acted as roots firmly planted in the ground that allowed the branches above to sway so naturally in the wind – this is exactly Chopin’s own description of tempo ‘rubato’.A superb sense of balance in the second prelude between the brooding bass and the pleading melodic line.There was such beauty in the final cadential phrase played with such mature sensitive musicianship- what one might call ‘aristocratic’.Often a term used to describe the interpretations of Artur Rubinstein.A feeling that there is all the time to savour the subtle harmonic colours without ever loosing sight of the overall shape and inner propulsion of the music.The fleeting swirls of the left hand in the third were a wistful accompaniment to the wonderfully simple melodic line.A featherlight ending disappearing into the infinite with just two radiant chords to finish.Aristocratic is the only word to describe the beauty of the melodic line in the E minor prelude.Just one page so pregnant with meaning brought to a sumptuous climax before dying to a whisper .The final pianissimo chords were again of quite sublime beauty and I was very impressed that someone so young could bring such meaning to a seemingly simple cadence.The mellifluous meanderings of the fifth had something of the same shape and colour that he had hinted at in the Clementi sonata.It was nice to be reminded of Agosti’s fingerings in my score to find a true left hand legato in the Lento assai that followed.In Alim’s hands the melodic line was deeply felt thanks to his superb sense of balance and architectural shaping.The gently pulsating heartbeats throughout gradually drew their last breath as they vanished into the distance with Chopin’s own indication of pedal and pianissimo so intelligently and movingly interpreted.The little Andantino was lovingly shaped before the passionate outpourings of the eighth prelude.There was a wonderful sense of shape to the melodic line with the flourishing harmonies like quick silver hovering above.The change from A to A sharp in the coda was one of those magical moments that can only happen in public performance as it did so magically today.The Largo was played with sumptuous full sound,the problem with the dotted rhythm resolved convincingly even though to my ears it came as a surprise at the beginning!The jeux perlé so beautifully spun in the tenth was a mere accompaniment to the chordal melodic line as Alim’s intelligence made absolutely clear.The vivace that follows was an outpouring of wondrous sounds achingly short but to be augmented with the same mellifluous sounds as the nineteenth later.This was just a preparation for the astonishing virtuosity of the G sharp minor gallop thrown off with a sense of shape and passionate excitement that only a true master could provide.There was magic in the air with the thirteenth played with a flexibility that was ravishing.The più lento central section was sublime in its stillness and the bell like notes in the coda were pure magic.I have never heard the final cadence played so naturally or beautifully as Alim did today before the rush of wind that blows us into the disarming simplicity of the so called ‘Raindrop’ prelude.Such subtle shaping and colour just added to the somber crescendo in the central episode played so naturally and with the same gradual build up that reminded me of the famous interpretation of Sokolov .The transition of the return of the ‘Raindrop’ melody with its subtle pungent harmonies was heartbreakingly beautiful and the gradual disappearance to the final pianissimo chord made the call to arms of the B flat minor prelude all the more startling.I was at Perlemuter’s masterclass at the Academy in London when during the era of strikes under the Heath government the lights suddenly failed while the old maestro was demonstrating this prelude.It has passed into legend that Perlemuter carried on to the end of this fiendishly difficult prelude giving a note perfect performance oblivious that it was in total darkness!Well we live in different times and strikes are all too rare but the technical perfection and absolute authority that Alim brought to this prelude was quite astonishing with or without lights!The sun suddenly appeared with the A flat prelude played with loving care and beauty.The final A flat gong notes at the end played with the same magic as Ravel’s magic garden a century later.There was operatic drama in the eighteenth played with almost Lisztian aplomb before the technically transcendental difficulty of the beautiful mellifluous nineteenth.Difficulties just did not seem to exist for Alim such was his total mastery and musicianship that carried us from the first to the last of this wonderful work .The C minor prelude used by Busoni and Rachmaninov later as the theme for their variations was played with a full rich sound where one could admire the string quartet texture of the chords arriving so wondrously to the whispered pianissimo and gradual shape of the final cadence.There was a wonderful sense of legato to the Cantabile twenty first prelude before the passionate outpouring of left hand octaves of the twenty second.The radiance of the water splashing so simply in the twenty third was just the calm before the storm.Fearlessly plunging into the final D minor prelude with a sense of excitement and forward propulsion that was breathtaking.Even managing the glissandi type scales arriving so punctually at their destination without having to to alter the driving left hand rhythm.The final three great D’s were played with a fullness of sound that was of terrifying vibrant resonance.

Alim Beisembayev was born in Kazakhstan in 1998 and started playing the piano at the age of 5. He moved to study at the Central Music School in Moscow in September 2008. After two years in Moscow, Alim moved to study at the Purcell School for Young Musicians where he was taught by Tessa Nicholson. Adding to his performing experience, Alim wins several prizes during his time at the Purcell School including the Junior Cliburn International Competition in the US. In February 2016, Alim performed at the Royal Festival Hall with the Purcell School Symphony Orchestra. In September 2016, Alim continued his studies with Tessa Nicholson at the Royal Academy of Music where he was generously supported by a full scholarship. Alim has played many solo and chamber music concerts un the UK, Spain, Kazakhstan, USA, Barbados and Italy. He also won the Jaques Samuel Intercollegiate Competition which led to his Wigmore Hall recital debut in 2018.In September 2020, Alim pursued his post-graduate studies at the Royal College of Music in London under the guidance of Vanessa Latarche and Dmitri Alexeev. He is supported by a generous ABRSM scholarship and an award from the Countess of Munster Trust.

https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.wordpress.com/2020/06/02/the-bells-of-st-marys-are-ringing-to-the-sounds-of-alim-beisembayev/

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