Prokofiev • Liszt • Saint-Saëns

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COMPOSERS: Sergey Prokofiev; Franz Liszt; Camille Saint-Saëns
ALBUM TITLE: Prokofiev • Liszt • Saint-Saëns
WORKS: Prokofiev: Suggestion diabolique; Sonata No. 6; Liszt: 10 Harmonies poétiques et reliqieuses; Mephisto Waltz; Saint-Saëns: Danse Macabre
PERFORMER: Behzod Abduraimov (piano)


Continuing his studies with Stanislav Ioudenitch in Kansas, this young Uzbek pianist has paced his career intelligently after his sensational win at the London International Piano Competition three years ago, and this debut disc suggests his patience has paid off, despite an imbalance in the recording.

An inventive transcription of Saint-Saëns’s hackneyed classic allows him to establish immediately his light, transparent touch and immaculately controlled pyrotechnics, while in the middle section he displays a Lisztean grace; the early Prokofiev firework which succeeds it seems to have emerged from the same sound-world.

But Abduraimov’s youth clearly shows in the work that follows. Prokofiev’s Sixth Sonata was written when the composer was going through the biggest crisis of his life – his passage to the West was blocked, and he was hopelessly torn between his wife and the young poet Mira Mendelson – and the music reflects that torment. Here, the first movement, which should jar the listener to the core, feels like a bland continuation of the previous piece: underpowered, oddly cautious, with no sense of occasion. The sly humour of the staccato second movement comes deftly across, as does the quicksilver finale. But the slow waltz, which should be infused with a luscious tenderness, lacks breadth. The recorded sound, too, lacks quality.

With Liszt, however, Abduraimov seems totally at home. La bénédiction de Dieu is conceived with such refined attention to pace and detail that the poetry is fully released, with the sound possessing a silky sheen; the Mephisto Waltz is a reminder of the high-octane virtuosity which brought him to international attention in the first place.


Michael Church