Nelly Akopian-Tamarina at Wigmore Hall

Moments musicaux, D780
In the mists
Mazurkas [selection of 10]

Nelly Akopian-Tamarina (piano)

Reviewed by: Robert Matthew-Walker

Reviewed: 23 March, 2009
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Nelly Akopian-Tamarina has to be, on this showing, one of the most individual pianists currently before the public. One ought not to infer that the use of the word ‘individual’ in that sentence is a euphemism for quixotic or extravagantly outlandish, although a hostile critic (which I am not) might claim that certain aspects of her playing merited the latter description in that it was difficult at times to equate what we heard with the music on the printed page. Nor, one felt, could we put our hands on our hearts and say that the actual tone of the instrument, throughout the evening, was as consistently fine as it ought to have been – being a little uncertain in tuning and chording – and at times she had an unfortunate tendency to play through the tone too forcefully.

Such criticism might have found more general acceptance in her account of Schubert’s Moments musicaux, for whilst Akopian-Tamarina possesses an admirable technique and produces an enviable range of tone-colours which her considerable musicianship puts to expressive use, her individual – perhaps one should say individualistic – readings of these well-known pieces occasionally bordered on the eccentric.No such criticism could be levelled at her performance of Janáček’s In the mists, for this showed this remarkable artist at her very best; indeed, this was an account of no little distinction, such as would place her playing as amongst the finest that can ever have been laid at the service of this music.

In ten of Chopin’s Mazurkas, however, Akopian-Tamarina did not seem consistently to convey the essence of the Polish dance-forms that collectively make up the genre, particularly the strongly-accentuated second or third beat within a triple pulse; for this artist, the melodic line was the inspiration, and rather than basing it upon a strong underlying structure, she allowed her considerable flights of fancy to take her (and us) where she was wont to go.

Therefore, only the E minor and A minor from Opus 17, the C sharp minor from Opus 50, parts of Opus 30/Number 2 and the concluding item in her selection, Opus 59/Number 3, were wholly convincing; the other pieces in this group soon lost sight of the structural cohesion which they all should have enjoyed. In its place were momentary examples of expression – which were, it has to be admitted, at times very beautiful – but more was required to present these pieces as examples of this great composer at his most individual.

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