Jesu, Joy of Mans Desiring (From Cantata No.147, arr. Hess)
Chromatic Fantasy & Fugue, BWV903
Intermezzos in B minor, E minor, and C, Op.119
Rhapsodies, Op.79 in B minor and G minor
Pictures at an Exhibition
Eugenia Papadimas (piano)
Reviewed by: Rob Pennock
Reviewed: 4 February, 2005
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
The famous Myra Hess arrangement was too slow to allow any natural phrasing, and there were several slips. In the great D minor Fantasy the opening flourish was superb, but from that point onwards the performance was incoherent. In both Bach pieces the pedal was over-used, there was no pointing of rhythms and, unfortunately, even the fingering that could be heard through the pedal-haze was often untidy; indeed, Papadimas’s right-hand was clumsy and rigid. In fairness she was plainly terrified: at the end of the Fantasy & Fugue she just got up and walked off without even acknowledging the muted applause and looked pretty awful when she returned for the Brahms.
In Brahms’s B minor Rhapsody, there was no real sense of power and urgency in the first theme; as in the Bach, rubato, rhythmic nuance, dynamic shading and the ability to mould a phrase were largely absent. Much the same could be said of the selection from the Op.119 pieces; the first one needed more relaxed hands. In the second, there were two jarring ritenutos in the opening and no cantabile line; the third piece failed to dance. The second of the Rhapsodies needed more attack and a much less metronomic and pounding approach to rhythm, although on a more positive note Papadimas made more varied use of the pedal than in the Bach.
After the interval there was a bizarre introduction to Patrick Moore’s piece by actor Timothy Ackroyd which came over as a eulogy to both the pianist and composer. Moore’s piece is in the style of Chopin and fairly harmless but totally unmemorable. We then came to Pictures – throughout this work there was the same pounding approach to rhythm, virtually everything was played at piano or above, the phrasing was stiff and uneven, tempos were always slow and there were handfuls of wrong notes, especially in ‘Great Gate of Kiev’. Once again it was obvious that Papadimas was very nervous, she sat hunched over the piano and stared at the keys. Maybe when she is less nervous she will make a better impression, but this recital fell well short of international standards.