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S & H Recital Review

Rachmaninov, Skryabin, Prokofiev, Simon Trpceski (piano), Wigmore Hall, 27th January 2004 (MB)


If the musical trajectory of this recital faithfully traced three distinct, but evolutionary, composers in their individual approaches to writing for the piano it is also arguable that the recital was given back to front. Simon Trpceski’s performance of Rachmaninov’s B flat minor Sonata was simply astonishing, one of such power that everything else that followed it seemed understated in comparison.

On paper this was a powerhouse recital and so it proved to be in performance. Mr Trpceski has lost none of his ability to control the widest possible dynamic range. Where many pianists in this small hall would have been unable to tame the power of Rachmaninov’s transcendent writing – even when the pianist is negotiating three staves as against the usual two – Mr Trpceski brought formidable control to the sound he generated. He truly made this music blossom in a way you rarely hear it done. The heavy bass lines, the some times dense textures, the surging chromaticism all emerged with innate turbulence and diamond like clarity. Superb pedalling in the Rachmaninov widened the sound just enough to allow even thickets of notes to have separate values. But, if the technique impressed so did the interpretation. Restless one moment, passionate the next (for example in the second subject of the Allegro agitato), heroic in the gripping bell-like scales of the first movement but capable of dissolved serenity in the Lento it was a performance that fired the imagination. The coda to the Allegro molto just tumbled from the keyboard in a blaze of sound. Oh how this performance should have closed the recital!

Skyrabin’s F sharp, Sonata no.5 followed immediately afterwards and if there was any disappointment in the performance it was that it just didn’t project effortlessly enough this music’s essential non-Russianness. Prokofiev detected a French influence in this work and it is clearly there to be heard - in the opening Allegro, with its dark, falling chords or even in the key in which the sonata is written. Taken in a single, sweeping arc the sonata’s thirteen disjunctive sections seemed less sweeping in Mr Trpceski’s fingers than a Gilels brought to this work. Yet, whilst the Gallic allure of the work may have been missing there was no shortage of voltage with the grandest chords majestically controlled, and nor was there any shortage of brilliant finger-work in the pieces more feverish moments.

Prokofiev’s Sixth Sonata is a regular Trpceski work on his programmes (and is on his first disc released by EMI last year). His performance here was exceptional, slightly broader than I have heard him take it previously but more powerful because of that. Some pianists – Evgeny Kissin, for example – seem to find much more violence in this work than Mr Trpceski does. Those opening bars, for example, seem to inhabit a very different psyche to those of Kissin and Pogorelich; Mr Trpceski is keener to emphasise the sardonic elements Prokofiev instils in them (I have, in fact, never heard this opening sound so close to the Scherzo of Shostakovich’s 10th Symphony) but that is not to say he understates the aggression. The clench-fisted treble is enormously powerful, as is his clear view of overplaying the dissonance at key moments – especially in the development, with its acidic chords. Beautiful control – allied with a fabulous use of keyboard colour – brings out the contrasts in this work most effectively. The clarity he gave to Prokofiev’s col pugno marking, for example, was exemplary. And if there were Gallic elements missing from his Skryabin, that was certainly not the case with his freshly spontaneous reading of the Ravelian lentissimo third movement. Mr Trpceski doesn’t quite see the final movement – an astonishingly violent Vivace – in the same way as Kissin. Mr Trpceski is more velvet-fisted than iron-hammered, an equally valid interpretation of it.

A superb recital then, confirming yet again that Simon Trpceski is an artist of exceptional quality.


Marc Bridle



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