Rachmaninov Piano Concertos 1 & 4 and Paganini Rhapsody – Trpčeski & Petrenko [Avie]

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Piano Concerto No.1 in F sharp minor, Op.1
Piano Concerto No.4 in G minor, Op.40
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op.43

Simon Trpčeski (piano)

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
Vasily Petrenko

Recorded 9 April 2009 (Paganini Rhapsody), 3 February 2010 (PC1) and 26-28 January 2011 in Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: June 2011
Duration: 77 minutes



Completing their Royal Liverpool traversal of Rachmaninov’s piano-and-orchestra works, Simon Trpčeski and Vasily Petrenko plot a particularly fine account of the ever-popular Paganini Rhapsody, a scintillating performance yet poised and subtle, full of a very musical tension and interplay, and which holds the attention throughout. At the younger scale of Rachmaninov’s output is Piano Concerto No.1 (as revised). Petrenko, fully alive to the glittering scoring of ‘Pag Rhap’, gains a more-lush sound from the Liverpool Philharmonic, but with no lessening of lucidity of texture; and, throughout, one is aware of the close rapport between pianist and conductor, the orchestra fully engaged and supportive as Trpčeski’s transcendental technique serves the barnstorming, romancing and confidential aspects of Rachmaninov’s youthful (1892, the composer in his late teens) if later matured (in 1917) piece and following the success of his second and third concertos. This is a compelling performance, heart close to sleeve but never in danger of crossing the line into caricature or bathos; indeed it’s a closely observed, searching and soulful performance

For all that pianists will (correctly) identify the Fourth Piano Concerto (which was also heavily revised) as Rachmaninov’s greatest it remains something of an outsider to general music-lovers. It may not give its secrets up easily, and it has a sophistication of invention and orchestration that requires ‘special’ listening, but the rewards are many. Clearly Trpčeski believes in its every note and gives himself time to shape its many wonders, not least the sweeping opening, here measured to heroism and to ensure that the woodwinds’ all-important contributions are properly articulated (although Petrenko might have brought the trumpets out more). That slight lapse on the conductor’s part aside, this is a marvellously flexible account that appreciates Rachmaninov had moved on from earlier successes and was not repeating himself; the music, while no less glorious, is now concentrated, edgier, and the relationship between piano and orchestra is crucial to understanding the piece, and needs to be painstakingly prepared. It certainly has been for this recording and it completes a notable release, blessed with outstanding sound.

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