Simon Trpčeski plays Liszt & Schubert in Zankel Hall

Bach, trans. Liszt
Prelude and Fugue in A minor, BWV543
Années de pèlerinage: Deuxième année (Italie) – Sonetto 104 del Petrarca
Années de pèlerinage: Troisième année – Les jeux d’eau à la Villa d’Este
Hungarian Rhapsody No.2 in C sharp minor
16 German Dances, D783
Fantasy in C, D760 (Wanderer)

Simon Trpčeski (piano)

Reviewed by: Lewis M. Smoley

Reviewed: 27 February, 2012
Venue: Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall, New York City

For Carnegie Hall’s sixth annual Arthur Zankel tribute concert, Simon Trpčeski (awarded the Macedonian Presidential Medal of Honor in 2009) presented a program that displayed his many talents in Liszt and Schubert.

Simon TrpčeskiTrpčeski’s musicianship combines dazzling technique with delicate expressivity. He plays challenging pyrotechnical passages aggressively and with flaming intensity, imbues powerful themes with granite-like monumentality, and permeates lyrical melodies with warmth and charm. The first half was devoted to Liszt, beginning with his transcription of Bach. A straightforward opening of the Prelude became increasingly free flowing and demonstrative, and clarity of line and aggressive force dominated the Fugue, leading to a deluge of complex rhythmic figuration rushing onward like a tidal wave. Trpčeski began ‘Petrarch Sonnet 104’ rather stiffly, but he swept through the closing section with vibrant fervor and impressive dexterity, although not always note-perfect. His graceful treatment of the charming cantabile theme was captivating.

In ‘Les jeux d’eau à la Villa d’Este’, the overlapping scalar figuration had a delightfully free-floating quality, which was unaffected by choppy left-hand phrasing. Trills and other figures were too heavy-handed for their ornamental function. Climaxes were forceful and demonstrative, while softer billowy waves of sound were fleeting. Toward the close, interruptions by incisively drawn chords had a hard edge appropriate to Trpčeski’s tightly structured rendition. He gave the Second Hungarian Rhapsody a suitably Magyar character that rarely comes through in performances of this famous work, racing through the complex figurative passages, but taking a long, drawn-out approach to the soft subsidiary subject that made it rather dirge-like. The main tempo became increasingly flexible toward the wildly frenetic conclusion.

The livelier of Schubert’s German Dances, which were vividly drawn, rigidly etched and vigorously played, sometimes sounding more like Liszt than Schubert, while the softer Ländler were imbued with an enchanting lilt. The highlight of the evening came last – Schubert’s ‘Wanderer’ Fantasy, which takes its name from one of his best-known songs whose melody is used in the piece. Trpčeski emphasized the dramatic aspect of the work, treating it like a ballade with strong contrasting sections that had a narrative quality. His rhapsodic treatment of the song theme; the somber, almost dirge-like character he gave to the Adagio; and his breathtakingly energetic, propulsive closing section, with its extremely difficult fugato, combined to do justice to this extraordinary work.

Trpčeski gave three encores: a recent work entitled In Struga by a young Macedonian, Pande Shahov, Liszt’s transcription of Schubert’s Ständchen, played like an enchanting lullaby, and Chopin’s ‘Revolutionary’ Study, given a rather brusque though dramatically effective reading.

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