Simon Trpceski at Birmingham Town Hall by Norman Stinchcombe
The pinnacles of symphonic music can be transcribed for piano: look no further than Liszt’s recreations of Beethoven’s symphonies. Rimsky-Korsakov’s colourful tone poem Scheherazade doesn’t rank with Beethoven but it does pose a particular problem for the transcriber – the lady herself. In the orchestral version the Arabian Nights tale-spinner is seductively played by the first violin – a plum part for the orchestra leader – but the piano is a percussive, not a sustaining, instrument. It’s a weakness of the Belgian composer Paul Gilson’s transcription along with the third movement’s love music which, deprived of its luscious orchestration, sounds trite.
Those caveats shouldn’t detract from our appreciation of Simon Trpceski’s performance which was truly stupendous. The surging waves, tempest-torn coast and climactic shipwreck were all conjured up by the Macedonian pianist’s dynamic fingers. His left hand bass chords were thunderous, creating a real frisson in the second movement’s peremptory fanfares, matched by the delicacy of the stratospheric tintinnabulations for the work’s end. His encore of Rimsky’s Flight of the Bumblebee was dazzling.
Grieg’s baroque pastiche Holberg Suite is best known in its orchestral guise and hearing the piano original brought some interesting gains. The Air can sound like Classic FM chill-out music but, in its austere original form, Trpceski imbued it with grace and gravitas and also brought a wittily light touch to the final Rigaudon. Trpceski's delicate effervescent playing in seven of Mendelssohn’s Songs without Words showed why these elegantly crafted miniatures are traduced by being labelled as Victorian parlour music.