BEETHOVEN: Piano Sonata Op. 101; BRAHMS: Two Rhapsodies, Op. 79; SCHUMANN: Kreisleriana, Op. 16 – Alexander Beridze, piano – NY Classics 

by | Feb 17, 2018 | Classical CD Reviews

A Romantic recital by pianist and philanthropist Alexander Beridze warrants our attention. 

BEETHOVEN: Piano Sonata No. 28 in A Major, Op. 101; BRAHMS: Two Rhapsodies, Op. 79; SCHUMANN: Kreisleriana, Op. 16 – Alexander Beridze, piano – NY Classics NYC 11.12.2014, 65:00 (11/12/14) [] ****:

A native of the Republic of Georgia, Alexander Beridze (b. 1980) teaches at the Center of Musical Excellence in Manhattan. He is the founder of the New York Piano Festival, as well as the Artistic Director. In 2014, he was an artist in residence at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University. He is the President of the New York Music Foundation Inc., a not for profit 501 C 3 that he started in 2014. He has organized and performed in charity concerts to help children in Georgia, Russia and America, supporting the Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Downside Up, a Russian non-profit organization, which provides support for families of children with Down syndrome. He won the gold medal at the 53rd (2009) World Piano Competition at age 29. In 2011, Beridze performed in recital at Alice Tully Hall in New York City. His performances have been broadcast in the United States, the Republic of Georgia, Russia and 54 other countries.

The Beethoven 1816 A Major Sonata finds a mellow and emotionally responsive interpreter in Beridze, who treats the opening movement as a kind of groping improvisation, its inwardness interrupted by sudden shifts in tempo and phrase length. An enigmatic chastity informs this music, which seems at once bucolic and anxious. The ensuing March in F Major holds forth in dotted rhythm, steadfast and resolute, a clear model for the Schumann Fantasy’s second movement. The slow and yearning-laden slow movement serves as an introduction to the polyphonic finale, set in four voices. Beridze injects a breadth and heroism into this music that rings with authority but not bombast. The last seven chords in the tonic major dispel the clouds and hazy doubts that have otherwise plagued the course of a journey now declaring its grand optimism.

The 1880 Two Rhapsodies of Johannes Brahms mark the late introspective aspect of his career, in which even free-forms must submit to sonata-allegro development. The grueling F-sharp octave that opens the b Minor Rhapsody announces the suppressed pain—in a three-note motif —that these works convey in their stoic manner. The two outer sections grumble and seethe with the restlessness Matthew Arnold celebrates in the currents of his “Dover Beach.” The rather glum atmosphere dispels in the musette-like middle section. The coda exploits a potent pedal point that Berizde mounts in a foggy, turbulent iteration of the second theme layered with troubled counterpoint. The g Minor Rhapsody emerges from persistent triplets set in strict sonata-form as the themes develop.  Beridze urges the music forward with grim determination, especially the motive built from a four-note chromatic turn.  Only occasionally does militant resolve defer—by slow degrees—to tender reflection.  The recapitulation, however, permits real passion to reveal itself, only, via an elongated ritardando, to relent prior to one last eruption.

Robert Schumann’s suite of eight fantasies, Kreisleriana, derives its impetus from the writings of E.T.A. Hoffmann and his journal of the imaginary Kappelmeister Kreisler, whose musings have something of Paganini in their diabolical wizardry, for instance, in movements one and three. Schumann’s own polar mentality breaks forth in such movements as the massive “Sehr innig und nicht zu rasch,” in which introspection (Eusebius) yields to flashy, unabashed buoyancy (Florestan). Occasionally, a spiritual peace settles in, as in the fourth movement, Sehr langsam, in the form of a wide-ranging chorale, B-flat to D Major. Choppy, galloping figures in g Minor open Sehr lebhaft’s fifth movement, which suddenly break out into layered, contrapuntal arabesques, quite passionate in their coda.  The spirit of the lullaby informs the sixth section, Sehr langsam, an alto theme set over a pedal-point in the manner of Bach. It ends more quizzically, with a spirited climax that reminds us of Carnaval. Schumann invokes a fugal treatment for his seventh movement, Sehr rasch, a wild ride—almost Lisztian by way of Bach—that has the same, hurtling impetus as the opening movement. A true virtuoso etude, the piece impedes Beridze not at all, and he infuses the work’s polar mania with both dignity and poise. The last movement, Schnell und spieland, restores the canny “innocence” of play and mystery. Syncopations in the bass line infiltrate virtually every bar. The martial air that imposes itself clearly means to be a maerchen, a fairy-tale episode that extols the Romantic imagination.

The entirely natural and resonant piano sound comes to us via the efforts of Recording Engineer and Editor, Patrick Lo Re.

—Gary Lemco

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