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Pappano and LSO

Barbican Hall 17 December 2006

Tchaikovsky Francesca da Rimini
Saint-Saëns Piano Concerto No 2
Rachmaninov Symphonic Dances

Simon Trpceski piano
London Symphony Orchestra
Antonio Pappano conductor

Not to win a competition can sometimes appear in retrospect to be a canny career choice (q.v. Piotr Anderszewski at Leeds). Also, perhaps, to have a name which concentrates a critic's spelling and pronunciation?

Simon Trpceski
has never looked back since the London World Piano Competition 2000 - can you name the winner? * His formidable pianistic skills were on display at the Barbican in Saint-Saëns' most popular piano concerto, which nods back to Bach and forward to Franck. Most enduringly delightful was the scherzando 2nd movement which has some Mendelssohnian characteristics and a splendid theme which takes it towards Parisian light opers (Andrew Huth); a stand-alone favourite which compares with the Scherzo from Litolff's Fourth Concerto, a longtime classical lollipop. Trpceski was well supported by Pappano and the LSO and the audience was duly satisfied, and rewarded with a well chosen little encore, Mendelssohn's Venetian Gondola.

Far more engrossing was Pappano in Russian music, hot from his triumph with Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtsenk at Covent Garden (a DVD from the BBC TV presentation must surely be coming?).

To put this concert in perspective, the Tchaikovsky, no favourite of mine, would have been worth the journey on its own. Conducting without baton, Pappano moulded the orchestra's phrasing and sonorities, intense at the strenuous climaxes in the Inferno, breathtakingly tender in the love music, notably in the long clarinet solo accompanied by the entire string band, pizzicato pianissimo.

Most absorbing of all were the awkwardly titled late Symphonic Dances of Rachmaninoff **, which he had originally presented as Fantastic Dances and later suggested that they be thought of as Midday-Twilight-Midnight. The orchestration is sumptuous, with a saxophone solo in the first of the three movements and the Dies Irae making an appearance in the last. The waltz of the second, which the notes-writer linked to Berlioz, Tchaikovsky and Mahler, put me more in mind of Ravel's, and the rhythms of the third, with castanets, more towards Spanish than jazz. It would be interesting to hear them in juxtaposition with La Valse and Debussy's Iberia.

This was a great concert which left us richly nourished sensuously and with plenty to think about too. There was a warm feeling between capacity audience and conductor and from the orchestra to Antonio Pappano; no significant patching is needed for the concert (given once only at The Barbican) to be welcomed onto LSO Live? ***

Peter Grahame Woolf

* 1. A reserve pianist was drafted into the Finals and won - "That the jury made the wrong decision in choosing their eventual winner is now history" (H-T W, Seen&Heard)
* 2. - - Antti Siirala (the winner of the 2000 competition) is not exactly forgotten having since won the Dublin Axa and the Leeds competitions! I have to say that I prefer his playing to Simon Trpceski's. His Schubert transcriptions disc for Naxos is quite outstanding, especially the Schubert-Liszt 'Gute Nacht.' (AS)

**Rachmaninoff Symphonic Dances: recommended recording Zinman & Baltimore S O

***I have since learned that it was recorded for Classic FM and is currently scheduled to be broadcast on 25 February 2007 as part of the UBS Concert Series featuring the LSO.

For more detail about the playing, see Evening Standard & Classical Source. There is also a review in the Guardian (TA, 20 12) "cut, alas - such, I'm afraid, is the nature of print journalism as opposed to websites"

Photo: Eamonn McCabe