Besalyan has been lauded as the “true heir of the mainstream of Russian pianism, like Horowitz” (Chopin Magazine). Those are big shoes to fill, but this Armenian pianist’s debut album proves that he is a formidable pianist with a commanding presence and rich interpretive gifts.
As Besalyan was trained in the Eastern European piano tradition, it is no surprise that he has an affinity for Rachmaninoff, whose revised version of the Piano Sonata No.2 opens this program. Considering his background, one might expect melody and lyricism and an ear for luscious piano harmonies supplemented by dramatic force. His Rachmaninoff is impressive, with sweeping lines and vivid textures. Besalyan is absolutely in control of every tempo change, figuration, and dynamic marking, balancing restraint with emotion so that the sonata is full of pathos without sounding overdone. The following polka is vibrantly done.
Besalyan’s fiery Mephisto Waltz serves as another showcase of his technical abilities and discipline. It never feels rushed and retains coherency despite its temperamental nature. This is not just ferocious virtuosity, either: Besalyan draws forth tender moods, too. The closing Ravel is orchestral in scope.
There are pieces by two Armenian composers. Baghdassarian’s preludes follow Rachmaninoff’s aesthetic closely with emphasis on lyricism and lush harmonies. Besalyan presents these engagingly. His interpretation of Komitas’s ‘Garuna’ is exquisite—and extremely lucid. Following the Liszt, it offers a welcome respite from Faust and shows that Besalyan is able to summon the utmost delicacy.
The recording has a rich and pure sound, capturing every sonority. Besalyan is an artist to watch, for sure.