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Tales from Russia

Simon Trpčeski (piano) (Onyx)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Tales From Russia
Musorgsky: Night on Bare Mountain; Prokofiev: Tales of an Old Grandmother; Rimsky-Korsakov: Sheherazade
Simon Trpčeski (piano)
Onyx ONYX 4191   65:31 mins

How typically idiosyncratic of Simon Trpčeski to begin his latest recorded recital quietly, intuitively, with Prokofiev’s Tales of an Old Grandmother. These elliptical pieces, the first Prokofiev completed after leaving post-revolutionary Russia for what he thought would be a short tour of America, conjure nostalgia through their singular lyricism and mysterious refrains. Trpčeski gilds them with perfectly-judged tone, matched by a recording which is as full and lovely as any I’ve heard for a pianist as good as this.

The Tales are also the only pieces intended for the keyboard, though curiously Prokofiev ‘recorded’ a player-piano pot-pourri of themes from Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sheherazade. Here is the whole thing, and though you sometimes miss the orchestral master’s allocation of instrumental solos, Trpčeski ‘conducts’ his own interpretation so magnificently towards a series of towering climaxes that you understand his special love for this music. The big sea-swells are hair-raising – the last one in the finale so massive that it almost sounds as if a third recorded hand had been added; but the biggest surprise is the time and atmosphere Trpčeski allots to the mood-conjuring, starting with those mysterious chords Rimsky-Korsakov acknowledged as indebted to Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream Overture. The same is true of the Night on Bare Mountain, Konstantin Chernov transcribing Korsakov re-ordering Musorgsky: where a mere virtuoso might rush through the demon-banishing dawn, Trpčeski makes it a most magical tone painting.

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David Nice