by Rachel Beaumont

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Awwww: Ani Batikian and Roland Roberts at the NPG

Music by Bach, Mozart and Piazzolla
Ani Batikian and Roland Roberts
National Portrait Gallery
Unreserved, free
2 February 2018
NPG page

Bach Partita no.3
Mozart Duo for Violin and Viola no.1
Piazzolla Tango Etudes nos. 3 and 4

Riding high from the Cézanne exhibition, I arrived pre-delighted to this free concert in one of the moderately pointless (just an opinion) 19th-century galleries in the NPG. Post-Cézanne is good, free is good, Bach is good, but Batikian and her partner Roberts went the extra mile and threw in an adorable and apparently completely uninhibited small child, who skipped around the audience, pre-Raphaelite hair wafting behind her, when she wasn’t trying to snatch her parents’ instruments from them mid-performance. Awww.

Awww, and not arrrrgh!* Thus the benefits of an intimate, informal and free performance. Is this what salons were like, I wonder? Is this chamber music’s true home? Probably not (I bet they were more like this) but it is a welcome and laudable practice.

And how was the performance itself? A venue of this intimacy gives little forgiveness for errors and I’d be lying if I said this was the best performance of the Bach I’ve heard. But Batikian obviously knows what she’s about, and in particular the interplay between her and Roberts (and the little girl) in the superb Mozart duo was charming.

*Why is the long-haired girl cute and the skullcap man infuriating? Fair question. Intention, mainly, and resulting pomposity. Skullcap man intended to do what he did, whereas the little girl was unexpected by either audience or parents. Plus, and probably more importantly, from my position in an adjacent room child sounds were minimal in proportion to musical sounds. Such could not be said for skullcap man.

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