Alim Beisembayev: Pianist’s hands shake at last-minute Proms debut

  • By Mark Savage
  • BBC Music Correspondent

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Watch the nerve-wracking moment Alim Baisembayev made his Proms debut

It wasn’t the way Alim Baisembaev was hoping to make his debut at the BBC Proms.

The 25-year-old, who won the 2021 Leeds Piano Competition, received a call earlier this month asking if he could help ailing Ben Grosvenor.

After a rehearsal, he was playing Rachmaninoff’s famous Second Piano Concerto to a sold-out Albert Hall.

BBC footage shows him crossing his keyboard and shaking his hands as he prepares to begin.

„I didn’t expect this two days ago,” Beisembev told BBC Radio 3’s Petroc Trelawney immediately after the concert, but it was „really thrilling and great to be here”.

Besempai’s performance was part of a concert of John Wilson’s Sinfonia, which included Lily Boulanger’s tone-poem D’un matin de printemps and Walton’s First Symphony.

Despite his nerves, the Kazakhstan-born pianist’s Proms debut received glowing reviews.

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Alim Beisembayev received glowing reviews for his performance

„Beisembayev left the concert as if he had been born.” The Guardian’s Martin Kettle wrotepraised his „brilliant technique, rhythmic control and dynamic range”.

Rachmaninoff’s concerto is one of the most recognizable pieces in the classical repertoire, appearing in films like Brief Encounter and The Seven Year Itch.

It inspired the melody of Eric Carmen’s soft-rock ballad All By Myself, which was memorably covered by Celine Dion and featured in the first Bridget Jones film.

„Wilson and Baysembe themselves forgave sugar for heroism and sublime eloquence—and the sheer glory of that masterful, vibrant string sound would melt whatever remains of the polar ice caps,” he wrote.

Duchene wrote admiringly of Beysembe’s encore – „an ear-splitting transcription of the Infernal Dance from Stravinsky’s ballet The Firebird”.

Then the pianist, who was recently accepted into Radio 3’s New Generation talent development programme, recalled how he ended up at the Royal Albert Hall.

„It was a quick decision I had to make,” he said.

„I remember getting the phone call and I said, 'Okay, okay, let’s go to it.'” Then there was another phone call to warn me on television.

„So it was Friday morning! Two hours later I was in rehearsal.”

Asked if he had other plans for the weekend, he replied: „Yeah, I’m going to cook myself a nice dinner and listen to Ben Grosvenor on the radio.”

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