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Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Two Arabesques (1891) [7:39]
Children’s Corner (1908) [16:01]
Images Books 1 and 2 (1905-7) [28:10]
Clair de Lune (1905) [4:36]
L’Isle Joyeuse (1904) [5:47]
Simon Trpčeski (piano)
rec. Potton Hall, Suffolk, May, November 2007
EMI CLASSICS 5002722 [62:27]
Experience Classicsonline

The young Macedonian pianist Simon Trpčeski is already becoming something of a household name to classical lovers, with a number of well received CDs as well as numerous appearances on Radio 3. I still greatly enjoy playing his first EMI disc of all-Russian items (Scriabin, Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev and Stravinsky), well planned and excitingly executed. His following discs of Rachmaninov and Chopin were also very warmly greeted, and I’m sure this new all-Debussy will do equally well.
The venue for the recording, as with the others, is Potton Hall, a firm favourite these days. The engineers give Trpčeski a close, warm and intimate sound which, coupled with the rounded tone of the instrument, makes for comfortable home listening. The playing also displays these traits, and if you want the crystalline clarity of Zimerman or the razor-sharp fireworks of Zoltan Kocsis, this may not be for you. To be fair, the music chosen generally suits Trpčeski’s approach, but as we know with Debussy, a whole different element can be teased out if the pianist wishes.
I like his simple charm in the Two Arabesques, and he does not go for any vulgar point scoring here or elsewhere. They are supple yet free flowing, without any rhythmic distortion. Children’s Corner starts beautifully and, again, with a disarming naturalness of phrasing. ‘Dr. Gradus’ is more modérément than animé, something which shows how this piece has (rightly) stopped being a virtuoso encore. ‘Jimbo’s Lullaby’ is subtly nuanced – Trpčeski really does go from a piano opening to pianissimo for those little whole-tone stabs, showing how well he can control the gradations of colour. I doubt anyone will complain of a lack of character in ‘Golliwog’s Cake Walk’, which swaggers along and cocks a snook at passers-by.
The two books of ‘Images’ are also warmly presented without any lack of focus. Trpčeski really underlines Debussy’s harmonic shifts in ‘Reflets dans L’eau’ and lets his technique rip in ‘Mouvement’, which maybe doesn’t quite touch Kocsis’s sheer brilliance of execution but has other virtues. I winced a bit when I saw the sleeve’s timing for Trpčeski’s ‘Hommage à Rameau’ at 3:22 against Kocsis’s 8:14, before realizing it’s a plain old mistake and should read 6:39 – still quite a bit quicker.
I reckon ‘Claire de Lune’ is there for the popular vote, and it’s extremely well done, but why not give us the rest of ‘Suite bergamasque’ – there’s plenty of spare room for it!
The disc rounds off superbly with ‘L’Isle Joyeuse’, a total masterpiece and given a performance fully worthy of its greatness. I like especially the phrasing of the ‘big’ tune, which emerges naturally rather than put into neon lights.
A marvellous all-round effort, then, which will no doubt cement Trpčeski’s considerable reputation still further. Debussy expert Roger Nichols is not given much booklet space to illuminate us further on the music, but achieves typically stimulating results.
Tony Haywood

see also review by Dan Morgan



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