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Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 35 (1839) [25:46]; Scherzos: No. 1 in B flat minor, Op. 20 (1831-32) [10:54]; No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 31 (1837) [9:47]; No. 3 in C sharp minor, Op. 39 (1839) [7:14]; No. 4 in E, Op. 54 (1842) [11:08]
Simon Trpčeski (piano).
rec. Potton Hall, Suffolk, 26-29 July 2006. DDD
EMI CLASSICS 3 75586 2 [65:00] 


Simon  Trpčeski, it appears, is coming of age. In a brief note of thanks to his family - printed on the inside front cover  - for their support, he says. 'Without them, I would never have succeeded!'. 

It is true that there is a maturity here in his playing I had not heard before, despite all the superlatives that have been thrown at him. Aided by a superb recording from John Fraser and Arne Akselberg, this stunning disc runs high on my list of Discs of the Year. 

There is a lovely depth of sound to the opening of the Sonata. The turbulent allegro is full of high contrast, as is the dare-devil Scherzo - with just the slightest touch of studio awareness - and its lullaby Trio. The Funeral March is beautifully paced - not too slow - and the meaning of each attack is carefully considered. It is not black of sound, merely dark, so the conciliatory  illumination Chopin offers is perhaps slightly less of a shaft of light than some; Uchida is wonderful here. The finale though has all the technique of a Pollini but possibly more of the graveyard wind about it. 

The Four Scherzos make an excellent coupling. They work as a group, anyway, as various pianists have proved in recital in London in recent years. Trpčeski is quite light of pedal in the first,  although not dry. This lends it a rather nervous, highly-strung quality that makes the slower, contrastive sections seem rather desperate in their attempts to bring the blood-pressure down. The finger dexterity is jaw-dropping, but the interpretative stance and its method of delivery is just as much so. 

It is easy to forget that the Second Scherzo is actually marked Presto, but  Trpčeski takes it at a real lick. The triplets still make their mark and each note is clearly audible, as are the right-hand descending cascades. Talking of cascades, those of the Third Scherzo have a similar calming effect to the phenomenon I identified above in the First. 

I still contend that Richter is without peer in the elusive Fourth Scherzo but it has to be admitted that  Trpčeski is sure of himself and of his approach here and, therefore, he is unusually convincing in this piece. His skill at rapid finger-work without degrading the result into inappropriate mere filigree pays huge dividends. He seems to expand his dynamic range for this piece, as if to emphasise the work's extremes, making for an emotionally draining ride. 

This is a must-hear experience. 

Colin Clarke 



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