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Proms Chamber Music 15 - Chopin, Mendelssohn and Stravinsky: Simon Trpčeski (piano)Simon Crawford-Phillips and Ashley Wass (two pianos), Cadogan Hall, London, 31.8.2009 (BBr)

Chopin: Four Mazurkas, op.24 (1833) Mazurka in A minor, op.17/4 (1833)

Mendelssohn: Songs Without Words, op.19/1 (1829/1830), Venetian Gondola Song, op.19/6 (1829/1830), Venetian Gondola Song, op.30/6 (1833/1934), op.38/2 (1836/1837) and op.62/1 (1842/1844)
Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring (two-piano version) (1913)

To start the third day of this festival within a festival,  there was  piano music, and not the most obvious. Starting with five Mazurkas by Chopin, Simon Trpčeski displayed fine taste as he gave the pieces without recourse to sentimentality, which can so often happen, and with a full understanding of the light and shade of the music. He was aided and abetted by the most sublime use of rubato. This was Chopin playing of the highest order. No less impressive was his performance of five of Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words. His playing never pushed the music; he allowed it to speak for itself and thus brought out the underlying passion of the pieces. They somehow ceased to be miniatures but became something much bigger.

And then we had something completely different. In January Simon Crawford-Phillips gave the Stravinsky Rite of Spring, in LSO St Luke’s, with his usual partner Philip Moore and it was a very fine account. This was even better, if only because the acoustic was better suited to the multi layered textures and more detail was audible. Crawford-Phillips and Wass started well, allowing the music to grow with a logical sense of progression until the first fury was unleashed on us, and they kept the tension throughout. Even in the quietest moments, such as the start of part 2, there was always a sense of menace, dread even, at what they might let loose upon us next. In an interview from the stage, before the performance, Crawford-Phillips said that what we have in the two–piano version is the very guts of the music, and he is right, it is the very essence of The Rite of Spring. But you still cannot forget, no matter how hard you try, the orchestral colouring which is missing here. This was a rip roaring, barn storming performance but nothing will ever convince me that this music actually works well on the piano. Crawford-Phillips and Wass’s performance deserved an ovation and they got it.

Bob Briggs

For further details about forthcoming performances by 2009 BBC Proms the website


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