Shining Through

Sergei Babayan
Theater Jones

Blue Candlelight Concert Series continues to present internationally acclaimed performers that you can’t hear otherwise. So it was last weekend when the Armenian/American pianist Sergei Babayan dazzled the audience with is impeccable technique and musicianship.

Babayan was born in Gyumri, Soviet Armenia, began his musical studies at age six, and has racked up an impressive list of prizes in distinguished competitions, such as first prize in the Busoni International Piano Competition. It is easy to see why. Whether playing Bach or Chopin, his hallmark clarity was always evident at this recital on Nov. 4. But what was the most remarkable was his ability to switch styles from Baroque precision to Romantic rubato while still maintaining his own unique musical identity.

As a teacher, he is equally successful. At the Cleveland Institute of Music, he taught the astonishing Russian prodigy Daniil Trifonov, who went on to win the First Prize in at the Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition in Tel Aviv and the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 2011.

Considering that he is recognized as a champion of new music, such as works by Witold Lutoslawski and György Ligeti, none of these were on the program. This was  disappointing. He opened with some Chopin and then moved solidly to the Baroque era with some Bach and Rameau.

The Chopin came first. Babayan played a grab-bag of audience favorites such as the flashy Barcarole in C-sharp minor, Op. 60 to the Valse in the same key, Op. 64. No. 2. The preludes were represented by the brief explosion of fast notes that makes up the posthumously published Prelude in A flat major B.86.
Read the full review here