Varvara Tarasova: Schumann & Brahms
A native of St Petersburg, Varvara Tarasova studied at the Moscow Conservatory and, more recently, at London’s Royal College. She took first prize at the 2015 Sussex International Piano Competition and this new Champs Hill release of Brahms and Schumann is her debut recording.
Tarasova’s bona fides as a Brahms player are quickly established in her traversal of Op 76. Her beguiling cantabile is a given and she foregrounds inner voices in the thickest textures with confidence. If more robust cross rhythms could enhance the interest of the Capriccio (No 5), the Intermezzo (No 3) comes off with an enchanting music-box precision, while the famous Capriccio (No 2) maintains just the right balance of whimsy and melancholy.
The strong sense of musical architecture evidenced throughout the Klavierstücke is somewhat less pronounced in the more interpretatively challenging Schumann Variations. Here Tarasova’s eagerness to imbue each variation with a distinct character tends to diminish the narrative flow of the whole set.
However, fragmentation can be a virtue in the ‘scènes mignonnes’ of Carnaval. Schumann’s most popular piano cycle has become so encrusted with the received wisdom of innumerable performances and recordings that developing an original point of view poses challenges. Tarasova happily meets them, and with a minimum of fuss or eccentricity, in a persuasive performance distinguished by bright colours, resilient rhythmicality and considerable charm.
In a day when colossal technique is de rigueur for young pianists, it is Tarasova’s imagination that will set her apart from the pack. I look forward to watching her artistic growth which, from all indications, will be inevitable.