It’s a fair bet the Barbican was packed less because of the original promise of Sir Colin Davis at the helm - he was ill and Vasily Petrenko had to stand in - than because obaraf Simon Trpceski.
Pianistic bravura plus personal charisma have won this 33-year-old Macedonian a big following, and Beethoven’s ‘Emperor’ concerto represented an interesting foray outside his usual late Romantic territory. And it was clear from the start that Petrenko’s crisp authority would suit his approach, which was situated firmly at the heroic end of the spectrum.
I’ve heard more exploratory accounts, but in the Allegro Trpceski’s muscular virtuosity was a pleasure in itself, with pearlised power in the quiet passages and molten intensity at the climaxes. Thanks to his eloquent simplicity, the Adagio’s dialogue between piano and orchestra flowed sweetly, and the Rondo swung brilliantly to its close.
One of the engaging things about Trpceski is the way he wears his family allegiance on his sleeve. Taking his bow, he blew a kiss to relatives in the stalls, and said he would dedicate his encore to his absent brother; this piece - one of Beethoven’s mysterious middle-period minuets - had an understated sincerity which came from the heart.
Meanwhile the American pianist Jonathan Biss has been conducting a campaign to redress what he sees as posterity’s injustice to Schumann. In Biss’s view, this composer’s reputation rests on a small and unrepresentative selection of his works, and his key position in the development of classical music is not adequately acknowledged.
For the first of two Wigmore concerts, Biss roped in soprano Camilla Tilling to sing Berg’s exquisite ‘Sieben frühe Lieder’, and tenor Mark Padmore to sing part of Schubert’s ‘Schwanengesang’ followed by Schumann’s ‘Dichterliebe’, which Padmore delivered with revelatory vividness.
In the second concert Biss was rejoined by Padmore for Beethoven’s ‘An die ferne Geliebte’, and by violist Kim Kashkashian and clarinettist Romie de Guise-Langlois for Schumann’s ‘Märchenerzählungen’ and Kurtag’s extraordinary take on that work, in which Schumann’s open textures are collapsed into high-density utterances sometimes lasting mere seconds.
As Biss’s new Cd (Onyx 4082) proves, his Beethoven is hugely impressive, but his too-intellectualised approach to Schumann resulted in the wildness of that composer’s ‘Fantasie in C Op 17’ seeming chained and earthbound.