Behzod Abduraimov completes Park University’s ICM 20th Anniversary celebration

Behzod Abduraimov plays the piano at the Folly Theater

Twenty years of fostering heartfelt musicianship at Park University’s International Center for Music is worth a proper celebration. And what better person to complete the 2022-2023 season than ICM’s very own Behzod Abduraimov?

Abduraimov trained for years under Cliburn Gold Medalist Stanislav Ioudenitch at the ICM and is arguably the Center’s first major success story, thus being the perfect finale to the Center’s 20th Anniversary Celebration Season.

Performing at the Folly Theater on Thursday, Abduraimov opened the night with César Franck/Harold Bauer’s Prélude, Fugue et Variation, Op. 18—a dreamlike piece paired beautifully with Abduraimov’s master technique. 

Behzod Abduraimov plays the piano on the Folly Theater stage.
Behzod Abduraimov is the grand finale to the ICM’s 20th Anniversary Celebration. (Photo by Nicole Dolan)

Abduraimov seemed to transcend into another plane, another dimension even, submitting himself to the music. As he leaned into each key, it’s as if he was encouraging us to let go and invite the music to take control. Every phrase was continuous and unending. The music felt so natural that it was like experiencing the stream of his own consciousness unfurl. 

It’s no wonder every time he makes an “at-home” appearance that audiences flock to see him. 

Next, Abduraimov picked The Walls of Ancient Bukhara by Dilorom Saidaminova, which is a complex, multi-layered piece. It began with a seemingly playful dissonant call and response launched into a thunderous roar, and then eased out of the second movement with a soft pitter of rain. 

Abduraimov was very strategic with his transitions, nothing was ever abrupt or too clashy. He encouraged each note to ring and seep into the next—whether it’s from thunder to rain or light to dark—each transition was effortlessly seamless.

The Program
César FRANCK/Harold BAUER – Prélude, Fugue et Variation, Op. 18
Dilorom SAIDAMINOVA – The Walls of Ancient Bukhara (1973)
Maurice RAVEL – Gaspard de la nuit
Sergei RACHMANINOV – Selected Preludes
Sergei PROKOFIEV – Ten Pieces from Romeo and Juliet, Op. 75

Arpeggio after arpeggio, Abduraimov’s performance of Maurice Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit was so deeply entrancing it felt as though, for just a moment, the world had melted away. Every melody—from pianissimo to fortissimo—was played with the utmost importance and fervor; no storyline left untold.

Abduraimov was his own symphony. The tenor voices of the fourth movement sang high above the supporting voices as if the limelight finally found it amidst the others. From the dreamiest falsettos to the rolling bass, it felt as if he was leading the audience’s ear down a spiral staircase, going from the very top of the key to the bottom in the fifth movement. 

Next, Abduraimov selected Rachmaninov’s mystical and passionate preludes, including the iconic Opus 23 No. 5 in G Minor. Rachmaninov, the last of the Russian Romanticism composers, is known for his sweeping melodies and challenging octave fingerings due to his massive hands – all of which Abduraimov delivered. 

Following the Selected Preludes, he rounded out his performance with Sergei Prokofiev’s Ten Pieces from Romeo and Juliet, Op. 75. Abduraimov embraced his storytelling abilities here. Every movement had a distinct mood, voice and tone, like each scene of the original play did. Good musicians can perform a piece well, but great musicians allow the piece to unfurl before the audiences’ eyes as if the actors or dancers were on stage alongside them—and Abduraimov did just that. 

Musicians like Abduraimov are inspirational to watch, as he’s transitioned from aspiring 16 year old to international touring artist, following in the footsteps of legends. Part of that journey is having beautiful epicenters for the arts all over town like the Folly Theater, ICM, the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts and more invite and encourage local artists to share their passions with our community, inspiring the next generation of virtuosos.

Since 2003, the Center annually selects 30 students to train under the traditional European apprenticeship model with ICM faculty. Faculty members both foster the students’ talent and their career development to help them reach their full potential, which could mean transforming into an award-winning, internationally traveled musician like Abduraimov.

Reviewed Thursday, May 11, 2023 at the Folly Theater. For more information about Park University’s International Center for Music, visit icm.park.edu.

Nicole Dolan

Nicole Dolan is a proud Indonesian Kansas Citian who was raised on celebrating diversity, music and the arts — which are all at the core of who she is (just no Sugarland, please). Nicole is the marketing coordinator for the Kansas City Ballet and her work is featured in FlatlandKC, the Kansas City Business Journal, 90.9 The Bridge, KCUR and KC Studio Magazine. She’s played the piano for almost 20 years and is both trained in classical and jazz. If she's not writing or helping out at a show, you can find her downing her second espresso over ice or cooking for her family and friends.

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