Raffi Besalyan and Yuri Segawa Duo Recital in Phoenix Hall, Osaka, Japan

Since his successful concert tour in Japan in 2001, Armenian-born pianist Raffi Besalyan has been invited back every year to play concerts and teach master classes. He has been steadily establishing his name and musical career in this country, and on August 29, 2010, Besalyan and his wife violinist Yuri Segawa Besalyan made their duo debut in Phoenix Hall in Osaka.

Recital began with Debussy’s Sonata for Violin and Piano.  Besalyan’s accompaniment was solid and reliable from the start. His tender tone and gentle sonorities were filled with colorful nuances throughout. Segawa’s true abilities were revealed as the movements progressed; her sound attained the necessary warmth and she brought the music to an exciting finale.

Darkly passionate and colorful works of Armenian composers Babajanian and Komitas are highly folkloristic. As a native Armenian, Besalyan deeply felt this music and enchanted the audience with his temperamental phrasing. The convincing performance demonstrated that the feelings and emotions expressed by the two musicians were mutual-Segawa felt precisely the same way as her husband did, her violin sang with great affection, passion and yearning. Komitas’s “Crane” was glorious. Both Besalyan and Segawa brought the rich ethnic music to life and performed it with great pathos.

Last in the first half of the program was Scriabin’s Piano Sonata No.3.  Distinctly dynamic and symphonic in nature, Besalyan’s magnificent sound filled the entire hall. He manipulated the leaping rhythms with intensity throughout all four movements, and built the music into a solid three-dimensional architecture employing his warm, deep touch at the keyboard. Besalyan aimed for the portrayal of Scriabin as a masculine “Russian Virtuoso” on the edge, rather than only a “sensuous romantic.”

The second half of the program began with Besalyan’s account of three
Chopin Etudes Op.25-the famous “Butterfly”, the “Octave” Etude and the “Ocean”. Besalyan’s Chopin had a solid core, it sang with a rich juicy tone. Here again, his playing was dynamic, the music came alive throbbing with excitement. These are perhaps some of Besalyan’s best qualities.

Next was Ysaye’s “Poem Elegiaque” for violin and piano. Segawa’s melancholic expression and skillful use of portamento combined with her profound emotional approach captivated the audience with persuasive power. She executed the technical passages, double-stops and octaves with vivid colors. Her beautiful singing tone had a strong appeal and was quite seductive. This was very different from Segawa’s interpretation of Debussy. Indeed, Besalyan and Segawa are a married couple, they were in complete harmony with each other once again-the timing and direction of their phrasing in absolute unison.

Ravel’s own transcription of “La Valse” for piano solo rounded off this memorable recital. Here, Besalyan vigorously and persistently pulled out the poisonous characteristics of Ravel’s “La Valse” with its seditious rhythms in the lower register and brilliantly sparkling magnificent passages. It was again, exceptionally entertaining. Besalyan’s impellent power and boldly emotional performance aroused the entire atmosphere. The pianist used the instrument to its full capacity to create a wide range of marvelous sounds and colors. Besalyan drove the work to a fiery, dramatic coda with overwhelming intensity. It was definitely a jaw-dropping performance of a masterpiece!

Besalyan and Segawa were called back several times by the continuous applause of the audience. It was unforgettable when Segawa said, “even though we sometimes argued during our practice, we worked very hard to bring-up this music.” The duo recital was full of warm love from the wife and the husband who share their life and love for the music.