The Rest is Noise – London Philharmonic/Mikhail Agrest with Simon Trpčeski – Rachmaninov

Piano Concerto No.3 in D minor, Op.30
Symphony No.2 in E minor, Op.27

Simon Trpčeski (piano)

London Philharmonic Orchestra
Mikhail Agrest

Reviewed by: Kevin Rogers

Reviewed: 15 February, 2013
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Royal Festival Hall

Mikhail Agrest. Photograph: IntermusicaBranded with The Rest is Noise insignia, in reality this was a well-attended Friday-evening concert of popular Rachmaninov, played the night before in Madrid also with Mikhail Agrest replacing Yannick Nézet-Séguin. In his book, Alex Ross specifically cites Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances (his final composition) and The Isle of the Dead, altogether more in-keeping with his agenda than the much-played pieces in this programme, beginning impersonally with the concerto rather than with a short orchestral opener, the opening movement unfolded in a rather cold fashion with climaxes coming from out-of-nowhere.Simon TrpčeskiSimon Trpčeski’s technical prowess shone through without being too overt, though he can be forgiven for letting-rip in the longer and more-full-blooded of Rachmaninov’s two cadenzas, which was very exciting. In other respects his projection fell short. Details abounded from the LPO’s committed and concentrated playing: timpani and flute in the finale were particularly fine, but tuttis tended to be dull and muted. As an encore, Trpčeski offered Aram Khachaturian’s Evening’s Tale, played with poise and meaningful silences. Ross has only one mention of Khachaturian (1903-78) – and that’s a name-check.

A similar gloss to the concerto informed the Second Symphony (given uncut if without the first-movement exposition repeat). In places it sounded beautiful – praise for Nicholas Carpenter’s clarinet solo in the slow movement, and to Eddy Hackett’s glockenspiel contributions elsewhere, which carried through the orchestral weight in gleaming fashion – but the waters were sometimes muddied. The performance felt fast, which belied its 55-minute duration, and lacked structural guidance from Agrest – his ducking-and-diving technique maybe partly to blame, not always addressing what he needed to and in catch-up mode when he did. The opening of the work suggested the symphonic journey ahead, but hand-break turns never allowed the music to develop in any organic sense. This was an episodic rendition, the brilliance of Rachmaninov’s writing rarely dazzling the ear, even in the finale.

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