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Brahms: Handel Variations & 4 Ballades / Akopian-Tamarina

Brahms: Handel Variations & 4 Ballades / Akopian-Tamarina

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The incomparable, soul-searching playing of the veteran Russian pianist Nelly Akopian-Tamarina is captured in a rare studio recording for PENTATONE with a luminous performance of Brahms’s towering Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Handel, Op. 24 and the introspective Four Ballades, Op. 10.

In a distinguished tradition of playing stretching back to the great Russian school of Scriabin, Rachmaninov and Medtner through her teacher, the acclaimed virtuoso Alexander Goldenweiser, Nelly Akopian-Tamarina is an exemplar of an exquisitely crafted and poetical style of playing which is subtle, probing, deeply lyrical and utterly spellbinding.

Winner of the 1963 Robert Schumann International Competition for Pianists and Singers and recipient of the coveted Robert Schumann Prize in 1974, her career was nevertheless blocked by official censorship in the Soviet Union during the 1970s such that she made her London debut only in 1983 with a program of Schumann and Brahms. For this new release, Akopian-Tamarina approaches the program with her customary sensitivity and poetic insights to give performances of rare subtlety and perfection. “Classically framed romantic miniature fantasies, intricate, entwining studies in embroidery, decoration and voicing”, she writes of the Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Handel, “the twenty-five variations navigate the theme to a coronation of fugal triumph, immeasurable and immortal”.


This is something special. Nelly Akopian-Tamarina is a pianist of the Russian old school, part of a tradition stretching back to Rubinstein and Rachmaninoff, and was winning competitions in the 1960s. But since the early years her public performances have been rare, her recordings even more so—this all-Brahms disc has waited over 20 years to be released. It is captivating. The sense of intimacy in the Third and Fourth Ballades is perhaps explained when you read that they were recorded after session hours when she thought she was alone, unaware that the producer had slipped into the studio and turned on the microphone. There’s a feeling of time being suspended throughout, of Brahms’s long spans being masterfully, seamlessly molded with a finely graded, delicate touch. Alongside the four Ballades we hear the mighty Handel Variations, to which she brings a sense of quiet resolve and onward motion that is irresistible.

-- The Guardian (UK)

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    • UPC/Barcode: 827949067761
    • Item Number: PTC5186677