Boris Berezovsky (not to be confused with the Russian billionaire of the same name) is a phenomenally gifted pianist who burst onto the international scene in his early twenties with this gold medal award at the 1990 Tchaikovsky Competition. He had studied with the fabled Russian pianist and pedagogue, Eliso Virsaladze, in Moscow. (She advised him to change his family name, Elias, to his mother's given name, Berezovsky, because it sounded less Jewish, perhaps a reflection of conditions in the Soviet Union of the time.) But he mildly derogates her teaching and goes on to extol at length the teaching he received from Russian emigrant to Austria, Alexander Satz (who also taught rising star, Yevgeny Sudbin). He only began studying with Satz AFTER he'd won the Tchaikovsky. All this information and much more is in the 'Portrait' of the pianist (and even more so in the hourlong interview, an 'extra', with the film's director, Jan Schmidt-Garre, who is a knowledgeable and expert interviewer). I will admit that my main interest (as probably yours) was the concert (about which more in a moment) and forced myself to watch the spoken parts of the DVD, only to find myself absolutely fascinated by them. But enough about them.
The recital occurred on July 14, 2006 at the Ruhr Piano Festival in Essen, Germany. The program consists of eight Medtner 'Fairy Tales', an 'improvisation' on a piece, 'Change of Plans', by Welsh composer Dafydd Llywelyn, Beethoven's 'Diabelli Variations', 'Alt-Wien' from Leopold Godowsky's 'Triankontameron', and three of Liadov's character pieces.
Obviously the centerpiece is the Beethoven and it is given an extraordinarily clearly articulated, subtly nuanced and joyful performance. Although this is the only work Berezovsky plays from score, there is no indication that he is new to the piece. I will admit that I have heard performances of the Diabelli during which my attention wandered. Not so here. This is an electrifying performance.
The Medtner, Liadov and Godowsky are all short, gemütlich pieces and Berezovsky's manner of 'massaging the piano' (in the words of his very first teacher back in Moscow) fits them perfectly. They ooze charm and intimacy. Only in the Llywelyn piece, a dreadful example of dissonant thlunk & blurp, did interest wane. Cecil Taylor sounds mild in comparison.
Berezovsky is an enormously talented pianist who has only recently entered my radar screen, but I find myself eager to hear more from him.
Picture format: NTSC - 16:9; Sound: PCM stereo, DD 5.1, DTS 5.1; Subtitle languages: English, German, French, Spanish; Interviews are in English; Region code: 0 (worldwide); Disc format: DVD 9; Time: Concert 103 mins; Portrait 33 mins; Interview 57 mins.