Simon Trpceski, Wigmore Hall, London
Tuesday 12 November 2002
Happy the young musicians who are chosen for the BBC's New Generation Artists scheme, for the exposure launches their careers. Simon Trpceski, one of the current batch, leapt to fame in this country when he was placed second in the London Piano Competition in 2000, and his debut CD appeared earlier this year. The Wigmore Hall was packed for this recital, but the first half was rather unsatisfactory, and Trpceski seemed ill at ease. He launched Grieg's Holberg Suite, better known in its version for string orchestra, in a bluster, the bass and middle voices heavier than the top – no doubt deliberate but strange all the same.
The Sarabande second movement was disjointed and the Gavotte jumpy, while he sounded bored by the Andante religioso. Though the main sections of the final Rigaudon travelled nicely, the contrasting section between was unsettled.
The touching Schumann theme on which Brahms based his Opus 9 Variations gave the first glimpse of Trpceski's true form, for he played it with delicate poignancy but, whether or not he was trying to perpetuate this mood in the succeeding variations, they had a tentative quality that was hardly persuasive. Despite some passing pleasures, including a dash of Mendelssohnian brilliance, the work needed a lot more help than Trpceski gave it.
Thank heaven, it was all change after the interval, as Trpceski burst upon us, brisk and percussive, in the opening number of Ravel's Valses nobles et sentimentales. Though you don't normally associate the two composers, this suggested why Trpceski is so effective in Prokofiev, and in the more pastel-coloured and even vaporous succeeding waltzes, he pinpointed textural effects exactly, while the rare moments of sonorous grandeur in the seventh piece were splendidly confident. Yet he didn't manage to make the dreamlike sequence of reminiscences in the Epilogue very poetic – it just sounded like a catalogue of quotations. It needed to drift, or float, more casually to avoid sounding perfunctory.
With Stravinsky's "3 Movements from Petrushka", Trpceski was on firmer ground, though he danced over it with wonderful crispness. He relished the bold colours of the puppet drama in the middle movement, and the outer ones blazed merrily, with hardly a sign of strain until the dangerous jumps before the end.
A sweetly soothing Bach/ Siloti arrangement was a nice choice as first encore, a rapid, feathery Etude by Mendelssohn still nicer, and Liszt's arrangement of Schubert's Gretchen am Spinnrade, the voice part drunk with lovesickness, made a haunting farewell.
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