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Finally, an album that carries us into a realm of gentle enchantment. The Russian pianist Nelly Akopian-Tamarina has been forced to spend much of her professional life in a twilight world of exile. Born in Moscow, and one of the last students to be taught by the great Alexander Goldenweiser, she had a meteoric start after winning the International Robert Schumann Competition at 19. But when her sister married a Jew and emigrated to the West, she found herself blacklisted by association, and was prevented from recording or performing for over a decade; she took up painting instead. In turn she too emigrated but, lacking the support of a big label, remained a discreet presence in the Western musical world. Two years ago, Pentatone released her acclaimed recording of Brahms’ Handel Variations and Ballades; this live recording captured at London’s Wigmore Hall in 2009 is no less revelatory.

Although famed in her youth for her speed and fire, she says she is now a ‘slow pianist’. The Chopin Mazurkas included here are a triumphant vindication of this fact. The first of these (Op 67/2) sets offat a luxuriously slow pace, and the second (Op 17/1), to which most pianists bring a parade-ground swagger, takes us into a darkly mysterious region. Once you settle into her slow and deliberate manner, unexpected beauties emerge; the short preamble to the C-sharp minor Mazurka Op 50/3 becomes a major event, while Op 56/3 in C minor is a complex web of rhythmic tensions. The Janáˇcek suite becomes an effusion of quintessentially Slavic lyricism, the Medtner the most languidly graceful of reveries, and the Liadov a closing bonne bouche.

MICHAEL CHURCH Read the full review on Agora Classica

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