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Music review: Simon Trpceski in recital debut at Walt Disney Concert Hall

February 23, 2011 | 12:47 pm

Simon There may have been three firsts at Walt Disney Concert Hall on Tuesday. Two were expected: Macedonian pianist Simon Trpčeski made his recital debut at the hall, and after intermission gave the California premiere of compatriot Pande Shahov’s piano suite, “Songs and Whispers.” The unexpected occurred when Trpčeski introduced the piece by singing four short sections of the rhythmically challenging Macedonian folk songs that inspired the work, accompanying himself at the piano.

His voice is surprisingly good, warm and direct. When he performed the mostly tonal suite of six pieces, the score turned out to be a pleasant hodgepodge of Chopin and Keith Jarrett-like jazz flourishes, with the pianist adding his own formidable cadenza to the “Quasi toccata” finale. He dedicated the suite to his loyal Macedonian following in the audience.

The recital opened with Haydn’s Sonata in C minor, given a gentle, spacious and very romantic reading. It led into four moody Chopin Nocturnes, two each from Op. 32 and Op. 48. Trpčeski’s sound was consistently rounded, even dreamy. But the recital’s aura of quiet consolation and the pianist’s unvaried beauty of tone suggested something more personal was going on here. His playing felt distant.

In Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 7, Trpčeski displayed tremendous virtuosity in the toccata finale, but in the andante middle movement, a Chopinesque melancholy dominated.

Trpčeski’s two encores were similarly low-key: the sixth of Mozart’s nine “Variations on a Minuet by J.P. Duport,” and Chopin’s Waltz in A minor, which the pianist dedicated to the memory of his father.

 --Rick Schultz

Photo: Simon Trpčeski. Credit: KulturOp