The Macedonian pianist Simon Trpceski is both a showman and a serious family man, and he prefaced Prokofiev’s First Piano Concerto with a dedication to a ‘very special person’ who would, he hoped, forgive any pianistic shortcomings – that person being his daughter, and this being her fourth birthday.
Prokofiev wrote his concerto to showcase his keyboard brilliance and his musical provocativeness. Some pianists give the first movement’s madly motoric scrambles up and down the keyboard a sort of prettiness, but in Trpceski’s hands the spiky leaps and octave runs became weaponry: his aim seemed to be to bring out the music’s exuberant percussiveness, rather than its lyricism.
And under Michael Tilson Thomas’s direction the London Symphony Orchestra responded adroitly to his challenge, in the Andante providing ethereal textures over which he laid leisurely figurations, and in the crazy finale allowing him to let rip while maintaining steely technical control. When it was over a tiny figure ran on stage with a giant bouquet; the encore was a march from the “Nutcracker”; then father and daughter walked off into the wings hand-in-hand. Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony, which followed, was a darkly passionate as one could wish, but fourteen minutes of Trpceski fireworks stole the show.