May Day demonstration. 1 May 1940
ROSA TAMARKINA (1920-1950)
At rare moments in history someone of genius comes along who electrifies the heavens with an explosion of light and color, only to be extinguished prematurely by the cruelty of fate. Rosa Tamarkina was such a genius.
Tamarkina studied at the Moscow Conservatory and eventually with Konstantin Igumnov. She began to concertize at the age of 15 and was invited to participate in the 3rd International Chopin Competition in 1937 at the age of 17.
Judges of the caliber of Emil von Sauer and Wilhelm Backhaus awarded her second prize. To put this achievement in perspective, the first prize winner that year was Yakov Zak, one of the great Russian pianists of the mid-century. 10 years earlier the 1st International Chopin Competition winner was Lev Oborin, another of the supreme Russian giants of the piano.
She had a wide ranging repertoire, from Bach to the moderns (at that time Scriabin and Rachmaninov). It was considered that she could play them all beautifully and with a maturity that belied her age. But she is most remembered, by those fortunate enough to have heard her, for her interpretations of Chopin, Schumann and Liszt.
One can only imagine what a treasure of recorded riches she would have left to the world had she lived another 30 or 40 years.
Rosa Tamarkina’s performance of Sergei Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto N°2 in C minor, Op.18is among the finest I have ever heard.
Rosa Tamarkina’s performance of Sergei Taneyev’s Piano Quintetis the unique example of her playing of chamber music that I have been able to find, perhaps the only one that exists, but it is sufficient to demonstrate her mastery of that idiom as well.
Below are performances of piano music by Chopin, Schubert and Liszt, several Liszt transcriptions of Schubert Songs, and the Liszt Paraphrase on Verdi’s Rigoletto.
Ich such’ im Schnee vergebens
Nach ihrer Tritte Spur,
Wo sie an meinem Arme
Durchstrich die grüne Flur.
Ich will den Boden küssen,
Durchdringen Eis und Schnee
Mit meinen heißen Tränen,
Bis ich die Erde seh’.
Wo find’ ich eine Blüte,
Wo find’ ich grünes Gras?
Die Blumen sind erstorben,
Der Rasen sieht so blaß.
Soll denn kein Angedenken
Ich nehmen mit von hier?
Wenn meine Schmerzen schweigen,
Wer sagt mir dann von ihr?
Mein Herz ist wie erstorben,
Kalt starrt ihr Bild darin;
Schmilzt je das Herz mir wieder,
Fließt auch ihr Bild dahin!