Philharmonia Sokhiev

The Enchanted Lake, Op.62
Piano Concerto No.1 in B flat minor, Op.23
Scheherazade – Symphonic Suite, Op.35

Simon Trpčeski (piano)

Philharmonia Orchestra
Tugan Sokhiev

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 5 October, 2004
Venue: Royal Festival Hall, London

The London orchestras resident in the Royal Festival Hall are currently engaging in what might be described as ‘programme-rubato’: what you gain on the Malcolm Arnold and Harrison Birtwistle stakes, London Philharmonic and Philharmonia Orchestra respectively, you lose on a very heavy dose of ‘popular classics’, which may become perceived as contemptible repertoire simply by dint of the regularity with which it is played. Yet, concerts are also invaluable opportunities to keep tabs on upcoming young musicians and to share whatever insights they may bring to so-called war-horses.

Tugan Sokhiev and Simon Trpčeski are two musicians enjoying much attention. Trpčeski, in particular, has amassed golden opinions; yet he has seemed, for all his technical excellence, somewhat short in having something to say about the music he plays. Not so on this occasion. This was a riveting account of the much essayed (and much abused) Tchaikovsky concerto that opened here with majestic sweep and developed with conviction across the three movements, Trpčeski finding a range of responses and an emotional engagement that hasn’t always been within his gift.

With Sokhiev and the Philharmonia alert and sympathetic partners, Trpčeski’s dynamic and colourful playing was a constant delight, whether in bravura or intimate sections, in a compelling account of the first-movement cadenza (somewhat manhandled at times but in a caring sort of way!), a delightfully tripping view of the Andantino semplice, which seemed a carefree intermezzo, and a robust account of the finale, one with plenty of power but with as much concern for pellucid and glittering textures. For an encore, Trpčeski played ‘October’ from Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons; the long silence at the close was as eloquent as the music itself and Trpčeski’s rendition of it.

Tugan Sokhiev conducts for the music and the musicians and his interpretations are similarly focussed. The Enchanted Lake was atmospherically and beautifully played, with just the right amount of ‘coldness’ to suggest a lack of human habitation and a sense of latent force beneath the dark, still water with the occasional glint from the stars above; all brought off with minimum fuss.

Sokhiev and the Philharmonia certainly have a close relationship, and Sokhiev’s view of Scheherazade was refreshingly direct – it’s a piece that simply can’t take the mauling it sometimes gets – and played with great spirit, and finesse, even in the overly frenetic finale that rode roughshod over Rimsky’s precisely notated metrical divisions. Indeed, throughout the piece, there were times when a bit more breathing space and a greater sense of fantasy were required. The overriding impression was of the sheer quality of the Philharmonia’s response, especially in the intimate moments, and not least from James Clark who provided some beautifully judged violin solos.

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