Rachmaninov: Piano Concertos Nos 1 & 4; Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini

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COMPOSERS: Rachmaninov
WORKS: Piano Concertos Nos 1 & 4; Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
PERFORMER: Simon Trpceski (piano); Royal Liverpool PO/Vasily Petrenko


Simon Trpceski established himself six years ago as a Rachmninov-interpreter to be reckoned with in a thrilling solo recital from EMI. His recording of Concertos Nos 2 and 3 for Avie, to which the present CD is the follow-up, garnered glowing opinions from the UK musical press.

Concertos Nos 1 and 4 (both heard here in the customary revised versions) have never been such sure-fire crowd-pleasers, but Trpceski certainly plays them with fire and passion. No. 1 emerges as big-boned and compelling, while he plays up the leanly modernist aspects of No. 4, the work that really announced a sea-change in Rachmaninov’s aesthetic. Trpceski is aided throughout by the unanimity of feeling produced by Vassily Petrenko’s direction of the orchestra, conductor and pianist working hand in glove. The development section and drive to the first-movement climax in Concerto No. 4, for instance, taken at what seems a hair-raising speed yet crystal clear and very exciting, would hardly be possible without an instinctive sense of partnership between them.


The Paganini Rhapsody is a superb interpretation, all muscle and sinewy rhythm but also has great warmth (though without an ounce of undue sentiment) in the slow and lyrical variations. The ‘big tune’ of the 18th variation has a kind of ecstatic sobriety. The field is very crowded in these works, with, for example, a stunning Paganini Variations from Yuja Wang, a Fourth Concerto from Leif Ove Andsnes that sounded definitive, not to mention Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli in this work, and the composer himself, peerless in all three pieces. But this is a generous coupling, squeezing all three big works onto one disc, and there’s no doubt that Trpceski is a splendid contender. Calum MacDonald