Young pianist Behzod Abduraimov and renowned conductor Vassily Sinaisky team up for Rachmaninov’s second piano concerto with the Seattle Symphony.
“There’s an old Russian expression,” said pianist Behzod Abduraimov. “It goes, ‘the new way is the well-forgotten old way.’ ”
Abduraimov was talking about his approach to Sergei Rachmaninov’s perennially popular and rapturous Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor. “This piece has been performed so over-the-top over the years,” he said. “The more simply you approach it, the better it sounds, as originally played.”
This weekend, Abduraimov will unveil his straightforward interpretation of Rachmaninov’s classic as a guest of Seattle Symphony Orchestra. The program — which includes Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Overture to the Czar’s Bride” and Tchaikovsky’s Suite No. 3 in G major — opened Thursday and repeats Saturday, Jan. 9, reuniting Abduraimov with former Moscow Philharmonic conductor Vassily Sinaisky.
Seattle Symphony: Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 2
Repeats 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 9, at Benaroya Hall, 200 University St., Seattle; $62-$126 (206-215-4747 seattlesymphony.org).
Abduraimov toured China with Sinaisky and the London Philharmonic Orchestra a year ago.
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In Abduraimov’s hands, simplicity doesn’t mean the concerto will be denied the momentous chords, fountains of glorious melodies or majestic dialogue between piano and orchestra that enthusiastic fans expect.
“The more lyrically you approach this piece, the better it sounds,” Abduraimov said. “It is those fantastic Russian melodies which need to be caressed.”
Some of those melodies have been heard for years by people who don’t associate them with Rachmaninov. Bits of the concerto have been the basis for Frank Sinatra’s “Full Moon and Empty Arms” and Eric Carmen’s “All By Myself,” and have appeared on soundtracks for classic films including “Brief Encounter,” “September Affair” and “The Seven-Year Itch.”
At 25, Abduraimov hasn’t had a lot of opportunity to explore the concerto, which gave Rachmaninov a concert-hall hit after a period of depression and writer’s block.
In fact, the last time Abduraimov, a Tashkent, Uzbekistan native, practiced it, he was 13, five years before he launched his professional career by winning the grand prize at the 2009 London International Piano Competition.
Abduraimov says the internationally lauded, 69-year-old Sinaisky has supported the young pianist’s enthusiasm for, and approach to, the concerto.
“He’s very attentive to my musical ideas,” Abduraimov said. “The piece is definitely part of my current season, next season and the season after. It is an absolute masterpiece, and in some ways is totally new for me. Playing it again after such a long gap, and bringing my experiences since that time to it, makes me very glad to be starting it now.”
Abduraimov’s mother, a piano teacher, taught him some basics of the instrument. He studied at the Uspensky State Central Lyceum in Tashkent and, in 2007, transferred to the International Center for Music at Park University, Kansas City.
Born in Abez, Sinaisky graduated from the Leningrad Conservatory and won a gold medal for conducting at Berlin’s Karajan Competition in 1973. He became chief conductor of the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra, followed by time at the Moscow Philharmonic and various leadership positions with orchestras in Europe.
In 2013, Sinaisky resigned after three years as music director of the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow. His sudden departure came after a troubled year at the iconic organization, including an acid attack on the ballet director, Sergei Filin, which damaged his eyesight.
Sinaisky went on to become conductor emeritus of the BBC Philharmonic and honorary conductor of Sweden’s Malmo Symphony Orchestra. His reputation as a distinguished opera conductor has grown in recent years with productions of “Boris Godunov” at San Francisco Opera and “Der Rosenkavalier” for English National Opera.
“I’m very glad to be working on Russian repertoire with him,” Abduraimov said. “He comes with so many important traditions in his legacy.”