S&H Recital review

Simon Trpceski, Wigmore Hall Debut, 27 June 2001 (MB)

The young Macedonian pianist Simon Trpceski first came to my attention during his performance of Prokofiev's Third Piano Concerto in the finals of the World Piano Competition last year. A fiery and passionate performance it caught the imagination of the audience - if not the judges who only awarded him second place (yet I have heard nothing of the prize winners placed either side of him). More than a year later his Wigmore Hall debut proved an auspicious occasion - his artistry and understanding, whether in Schumann or Prokofiev, revealing a pianist who has developed into an artist of outstanding promise. He is one of the few young pianists now before the public it will be worth trekking hundreds of miles to hear - and it would not surprise me if he develops the same iconic status of a Kissin. He already has a large cult following in his own country.

His programme of German romanticism and Russian splendour revealed two facets to Trpceski's pianism. On the one hand we had the poetic brilliance of the Fantasiestücke Op.12 (which included a simply fabulous reading of the Fabel episode); on the other, we had breathtaking virtuosity and titanic rawness in a brilliant performance of Prokofiev's Seventh Sonata. His Schumann is direct to the point of angularity but the swathes of warmth which he generated from subtle peddling and delicate finger-work were as inevitably coloured as a prism. The Etudes symphonique Op. 13 displayed inwardness and passion in abundance along with the cleanest articulation. There was absolutely no Puritanism to this playing - simply liberated ecstasy and an effortless virtuosity which Trpceski put fully at the service of the music.

The second half of this recital was pure Russian fare. Tchaikovsky's Concert Suite from the Nutcracker (arranged by Pletnev) again showed Trpceski to possess a magical touch - moments such as the Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy and the Russian and Chinese Tea Dances had feather-light touch and delicate phrasing. The Intermezzo inspired Trpceski to moments of ecstatic lyricism, which almost suggested harp-like textures. His performance of Prokofiev's Seventh Sonata was a stunning achievement - incandescent in its phrasing, thrilling in its panache and electrifying in its delivery. The pianism was bold, full-toned, expressive and articulated with a fabulously clean technique. Never did the thrilling percussiveness of this work seem to overwhelm the potent lyricism (in fact it was as near perfectly blended as I can ever remember in the concert hall). The Precipitato, with its cluster harmonies and demonic sounding thunder from the lower register, was shattering. It was the most spellbinding performance I have heard of this sonata.

I can't recall a Wigmore Hall audience responding so positively during a debut recital - the roar at the end of the Prokofiev being indicative of just how special this recital had been. Encores by Stravinsky, Bach and Chopin followed, all delivered with thrilling élan. This was an unforgettable event which shows a new challenger has entered the ranks of the Piano heaven. It can't be long before he reigns there almost alone and unchallenged.

Marc Bridle

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