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Pianist Amiran Zenaishvili

Review by David Richards
Toronto ON April 21 2017

Amiran Zenaishvili shows an innate understanding of Brahms in his Canadian debut recital!

There are many fine concert venues in Toronto; on a nightly basis, one can find superb musical performances in many parts of the city. Nevertheless, this was my first opportunity to hear a concert in the showroom of Remenyi House of Music. Across the street from the Royal Conservatory of Music on Bloor Street West, a salon hides on the second floor of this music store. It had the perfect ambiance for the music of Brahms as performed last evening by Russian born pianist Amiran Zenaishvili in his debut recital in Canada.

The salon itself is adorned with historical and modern string instruments, a wood-panelled book case and various musical artifacts. Behind the Fazioli grand piano, above a fireplace, hangs a rare portrait of Edouard Reményi, the renowned nineteenth century violinst and ancestor of store owner Michael Remenyi. It was Edward Reményi who accompanied Brahms on a journey across Germany in 1853 after which Brahms wrote his Piano Sonata No. 3 in F minor Op. 5. It was fitting that this same sonata highlighted last night’s recital.

Zenaishvili is a wonderfully talented Russian pianist who is currently completing his undergraduate studies at the Royal Academy of Music in London, England. At 22 years of age and already the recipient of many awards, Zenaishvili has been accepted into a masters program in piano performance at the RAM beginning in the fall of this year.

Last night’s programme began with some of Brahms’ most challenging music written during his mid-forties. Two Rhapsodies Op. 79 contain some of the most expressively beautiful music that Brahms ever wrote and are steeped in gripping melodies, dark rich harmonies and a tumultuous spirit. Although the title might suggest otherwise, there is a deeply woven organization within each complex work. Zenaishvili has an innate grasp of the poetry within Brahms' music and performed brilliantly bringing out both the lyrical and passionate aspects of the music. His gentleness in the middle section of the first Rhapsody was contrasted with the thunderous sections surround it.

The Two Rhapsodies were followed by Romance in F Major Op. 118. No. 5 from Brahms’ late-in-life collection of mostly melancholic and shorter piano works. As ever, Brahms requires a breadth of expression which and Zenaishvili delivered.

Piano Sonata No. 3 is a showcase of Brahms’ youthful brilliance. It requires impeccable technique for the fiery octaves and blustery furor. The sonata is truly symphonic in scope and in its range of expression. Written while Brahms was staying with Robert and Clara Schumann in the fall of 1853, it has been called “the crown of his early keyboard music". Zenaishvili played the opening with a deliberate intensity of emotion. The Andante by contrast had a gentle lyricism allowing Brahms’ melodic line to soar. The driving force and energy of the Scherzo was electric. The Finale had a brilliance intermingled with heavenly and lyrical moments. It was clear that Zenaishvili has a natural empathy for the music of Brahms.

Zenaishvili demonstrated another side of his musicianship in an encore performance of Two Preludes by Lilia Temirkanova, composer and pianist, the host of last night's recital, and Zenaishvili’s tour sponsor.

Amiran Zenaishvili returns to the UK tomorrow to pursue projects that include a recording of Brahms' Opus 1-5, a performance of the entire Well Tempered Clavier  by J.S. Bach, and preparation for a performance of a compilation of PreludesandFugues from Bach to the present day. I look forward to following Zenaishvili's career and hope that he returns soon for another Toronto performance.