Simon Trpčeski at Queen Elizabeth Hall

Sonata in C minor, Hob.XV1/20
Six Variations in F on the aria ‘Salve tu, Domine’ from Paisiello’s I filosofi immaginarii, K398
Two Variations in A on the aria ‘Come un agnello’ from Sarti’s Fra I due litigant, K460
Four Nocturnes – Op.32/1, Op.32/2, Op.48/2 & Op.48/1Pande Shahov
Songs and Whispers – a suite for solo piano [World premiere]

Simon Trpčeski (piano)

Reviewed by: Peter Reed

Reviewed: 13 October, 2009
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Queen Elizabeth Hall

Simon TrpčeskiThe Macedonian pianist Simon Trpčeski is linked more with repertoire from Chopin forwards to Debussy and the early-20th-century Russians, a repertoire well-tailored to his searching musicianship and a finely honed, turbo-charged technique. The classical world of Haydn and Mozart has different priorities, mainly to do with phrasing and structure, and there was no sense of Trpčeski being out of his element.

He maintained a taut momentum in the Haydn sonata, especially the quirky first movement, and he showed an intuitive grasp of the risks Haydn takes in the balancing of his material. This is one of Haydn’s ‘big’ sonatas, but in spite of the fact that Trpčeski didn’t observe any of the repeats, his was a big, urgent performance that showed off Haydn’s Sturm und Drang mannerisms in all their pressurised finery.

The following two sets of Mozart Variations allowed Trpčeski to open out into more expansive virtuosity. One doesn’t often think of Mozart as flashy, but he is here, especially in the heady combination of wit and fantasy of the two Sarti variations, thrilling played by Trpčeski.

After the clarity of projection in the first half of the programme, the difference of touch and sound in the two sets of Chopin Nocturnes was just one of many indications of Trpčeski’s intensely satisfying playing, which admits us to Chopin’s rarefied emotional world at the same time as revealing how much he owes to classical and baroque music. Trpčeski makes the Chopin style of finely calibrated rubato, the seemingly dissolving bar-line, how decoration is inseparable from structure, seem the easiest, most natural thing in the world, which it is – until you try to play it. There was so much to admire here. The famous melody at the heart of the A flat (‘Les sylphides’) Nocturne isn’t so robust an inspiration that it can take the appassionato designation Chopin loads onto it at the reprise, and the tact with which Trpčeski reined it in was exemplary and, as a psychologist might say, evidence of an acute emotional intelligence. Trpčeski was also correct to reverse the order of the Opus 48 Nocturnes, so that his Chopin set ended with the first in C minor, one of Chopin’s great works, which unites the heroic tragedy that you get in the Opus 44 Polonaise with a distracted, aristocratic grace, and the performance was masterly.

Trpčeski’s recital ended with the premiere of Songs and Whispers by fellow Macedonian Pande Shahov, a young (born 1973) composer who has studied with Julian Anderson – so he is in the hands of a master. Shahov’s 20-minutes suite is based on four Macedonian folksongs, with two interludes (the whispers of the title) that play with elements from two Chopin works, the Opus 54 Scherzo and the Opus 17/Number 4 Mazurka, the latter ‘whisper’ a particularly haunting meditation on Chopin’s desolate opening bars. As a whole Shahov’s work is fiercely pianistic, with spiky jazz influences familiar from Stravinsky and Poulenc, and its ebullient virtuosity, very much in Rachmaninov territory, was right up Trpčeski’s street.

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