James Neiman & Eldar Hudiyev
(Photo by Andrea Neiman)
Our musical community on the Monterey Peninsula is constantly being enriched by the influx of new musicians who, when they get established, make a significant contribution to our musical lives. Two relative newcomers, violinist Eldar Hudiyev and pianist James Neiman, gave us a demonstration of their artistic gifts last night in a well attended recital at All Saints’ Church in Carmel — so well attended, in fact, that they ran out of printed programs. This event, an artistic success in its own right, also served a higher purpose. It was a benefit concert for Youth Music Monterey County (YMMC), whose President, Dorothy Micheletti, was on hand to introduce the musicians and give a well deserved plug to this organization, which has continued to grow in influence as a rich opportunity for young orchestral players to gain experience in orchestra and ensemble playing.
In our current political climate, when immigration is a hot topic that divides our nation, Eldar Hudiyev is a shining example of someone with artistic talent of the highest order who emigrated from his native Turkmenistan to study music in the USA. After earning advanced degrees from the University of Oklahoma and Boston Conservatory, his subsequent success as a recitalist and soloist with prominent orchestras in the USA and Europe, has resulted in letters of support from musicians of the order of Yo Yo Ma that led to his being granted a permanent residence status in the USA, on the grounds that he is nationally recognized as an “Alien of Extraordinary Ability.” His battle is not over, however, for although he has a clearly defined path to citizenship, he is still struggling to gain legal residency and a path to citizenship for his family.
Eldar’s ensemble partner in this recital, James Neiman, is a gifted pianist and an early starter who began piano lessons with his mother at the age of 3. He continued his studies with such distinguished pianists at Adolph Baller, Julian White and Hans Boepple, but eventually succumbed to the widely-accepted belief that “majoring in music at the college level is a guaranteed path to poverty” and instead followed an academic career in mathematics and science. This career path led him to a Ph.D. in IT (Information Technology) and a successful career in in Silicon Valley and academia. Now retired from the world of IT, James recently moved to Carmel and is pursuing his true path in life — playing the piano on a very high artistic level.
So it was that these two very gifted musicians, who have informally been playing together frequently as an ensemble duo, made their formal debut last night at All Saints’ Church. They performed a serious program consisting of the Sonata in E Major, BWV 1016, by Bach, the Sonata in G Major, Op. 78, by Brahms, and ending with Beethoven’s great “Kreuzer” Sonata, Op. 47.
In the Bach Sonata Eldar demonstrated that he was not aiming for “an historically informed performance,” but rather for a performance from the heart. It leaned toward the Romantic era — rich and expressive and with especially moving slow movements. Neiman provided a beautifully articulated keyboard part — I believe I heard something of a “Glenn Gould” influence in the Allegro movements with Neiman’s fast moving, slightly non legato passage work, which provided a perfect counterpart to Eldar’s nicely articulated playing.
In the richly expressive performance of the Brahms G Major Sonata, Eldar gave us a deeply felt performance that was at times dark and passionate, but also blessed with many lyrical moments that held us spellbound. Neiman’s playing was amazing. The piano is very much an equal partner in this work, so Neiman truly had his work cut out for him. We heard big, bold playing that exploited all the resources of the modern piano.
The final work on the program was Beethoven’s mighty “Kreuzer” Sonata, Op. 47, and this, at nearly forty minutes (the length of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony), covered a lot of ground in a fast and wild performance that held us in its grip throughout. The Andante con Variazioni movement was especially poignant and the Rondo finale took us over the top to a triumphant conclusion.
After a standing ovation, we had one encore, Meditation from Massenet’s Thaïs. Often after a recital program, the encores are especially heartfelt, and so it was on this occasion. Eldar’s richly sonorous sound bloomed to higher levels and his high soft harmonics were amazing. I don’t believe I have ever heard a better performance of the Meditation from Thaïs. It was gorgeous.