Review of Beethoven's 4th Piano Concerto: Besalyan had the touch, whether gentle or dynamic. It was a wonderfully engaging performance by Besalyan and the orchestra

The Beethoven is a beauty – big, complex and with a certain joy for life it its overall expression. I chose seat J 106 in the Left Orchestra section to peer at the hands of Raffi Besalyan, and he and Beethoven provided waves of action. Thoughts on the viewing:

Besalyan seems like he could crack walnuts in either bare hand. His fingers look that strong on the keyboard. His physique speaks strength, too. At times, Besalyan played with such gusto that the Steinway and Sons piano gave up a wiggle. I wondered whether that give was desired. The flexibility didn’t seem to harm anything. Besalyan’s fingers often looked like the curled legs of an oversized spider, able to move independently. I can barely type a sentence without having to go back and make a correction, and Besalyan played at speed – sometimes 10 notes in an instant – in a masterfully arranged array of notes. From memory. This work calls for multitasking supreme: One hand has to know what the other is doing, and in this case the artist was in complete control as his right hand spoke differently than his left. Again, at speed. The first movement – which drew applause at the end – is a 360-degree trip from its serene opening to its forceful climax to its return to calm. Besalyan had the touch, whether gentle or dynamic. It was a wonderfully engaging performance by Besalyan, Groner and the orchestra.

Now, for the aftermath: Besalyan gets up from the piano, beams and bows to the rising audience and turns to and gives a warm hug to not the conductor but concertmaster Yuliya Smead – I think a sign of appreciation for how well the strings and the rest of the orchestra performed. Besalyan and Groner leave and then come back to acknowledge the big applause and standing ovation. The two leave again, and the applause tapers and the house lights begin to rise… but the orchestra players are stomping their feet loudly; they want more. They force the issue, and it comes to be. Besalyan returned to play a solo piano encore. Besalyan demonstrated more techniques – more great hand viewing – particularly in passages in which his right hand played in place and his left hand moved back and forth over the right hand. In the end, two little notes finish the piece sweetly.