“Demonic character and boiling energy”

It took Simon Trpceski three encores, but Tuesday’s Meany Hall audience finally got their fill of the young, Macedonian pianist Simon Trpceski. Trpceski was in town as part of the President’s Piano Series. Seattle holds a special place for Trpceski, it was, after all, the location for his North American debut. His fondness for the city was evident in an interview I did with him for Seattle Sound Magazine. “Their [Seattle’s] appreciation and reaction for my art is certainly a great motivation for me.” Given the audience’s response last night, we should expect to see much more of Trpceski in the years to come.

Trpceski took the world by storm with a scintillating recital in 2001 at England’s famed Wigmore Hall. A recording contract with EMI soon followed and before too long he was recording Rachmaninoff’s Preludes and his thorny Piano Sonata No.2. His most recent recording, a collection of charming and evocative Debussy pieces, acted as a foundation for Tuesday’s performance, beginning and ending the recital.

Trpceski’s program choices were a collection of marked contrasts. The first half, featured music that conjured more than it wowed. Debussy’s Children’s Corner was splendidly performed. Debussy composed the suite of miniatures for his daughter with the dedication: “”to my dear Chou-Chou, with the tender apologies of her father for what is to follow.” The dedication would end up being prophetic; both Debussy and his daughter would be dead within one year of each other.

Trpceski’s articulation and coloration was exceptional, both which helped to illustrate the essence of childhood. The Snow is Dancing is enchanting when given an average performance, under Trpceski the movement was spell binding. At this point in his young career, Trpceski is still a work in progress, and Children’s Corner demonstrated there is more to the Macedonian than just virtuosic prowess.

Children’s Corner was balanced at the end of the first half with a wild performance of Prokofiev’s Toccata. In Trpceski’s own words “the Toccata is a devil piece that shows the sometimes demonic character and boiling energy of the young Prokofiev.” For four minutes I don’t think I took a breath as Trpceski dashed off the piece.

After intermission Trpceski returned with a collection of some of Rachmaninoff’s most famous Preludes and more Prokofiev, the composer’s Piano Sonata No.7. You could quibble with the pianist’s sluggish Op.23 No.5 Prelude; however the effect served to underscore the work’s darker colors and somber texture.

Prokofiev’s Sonata No.7 combined the contrasts of the night and gave Trpceski a chance to show off both his technical brilliance and his tremendous artistry. The sonata is the third of Prokofiev’s “war sonatas.” The movement’s varying sensations challenge the technical and descriptive abilities of a pianist. I suspect this is what drew Trpceski to the work.

The second movement of the sonata demonstrates this contrast best. The movement begins with a reassuring main subject that is overcome by a violent, hair raising, clanging middle, which leads us right back to the original subject. The pianist tackled the charged middle without sacrificing the beauty and panache of the original subject.

Even though the night was filled with contrasting pieces, Trpescki mused “It’s always about love one way or another. The energy that the love for the music brings or the music itself brings.” There’s no doubt about it, if Trpceski continues to impress like he did on Tuesday, Seattle will continue to welcome the pianist back with open arms.

For my profile on Simon Trpceski be sure to pick up the current issue of Seattle Sound.

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