Yulianna Avdeeva

Critics like to make up their own minds about things. Even so, it never hurts to overhear a spot of post-concert chatter. "That was perfectly exhausting," whispered one woman to another after Yulianna Avdeeva's Chopin recital. She was right: "exhausting" was precisely the word I had been searching for.

You don't expect this from Chopin's music. Though inhabited by remote depths of emotion and disquiet, it never strays so far that you lose sight of its poise. So exquisitely conceived are the majority of his pieces that only bad playing can unbalance them; they should be a balm to the mind, not its undoing.

But Avdeeva's playing is not bad. It is excellent. It recently earned her first prize in the Chopin Piano Competition, making her one of only two female winners, and launching her on a whirlwind of high-profile debuts in the world's music capitals. It's easy to see why: Avdeeva strikes chords with precision, every note perfectly tempered. Her pacing is born of intelligent feeling and clarity of thought, and her ability to finesse Chopin's inner voices puts many to shame.

So why was the concert so exhausting? Briefly, because she terrorised the music. She rattled through four mazurkas as if daring them to strike back, and blazed through the serpentine reaches of the third scherzo as a mongoose might dispatch a cobra. Three Nocturnes rippled with taught muscle rather than light. Only in the second sonata, which is riven with disquiet and restless menace, did she fully inhabit the personality of the music; and again at the end, when she suddenly remembered the most important Chopin direction: sing.

Avdeeva will go far – when she learns that music is about peace as well as war.

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