wed 19/06/2024

Trpčeski, RSNO, Søndergård, Usher Hall, Edinburgh review - flash and sparkle | reviews, news & interviews

Trpčeski, RSNO, Søndergård, Usher Hall, Edinburgh review - flash and sparkle

Trpčeski, RSNO, Søndergård, Usher Hall, Edinburgh review - flash and sparkle

Pianist as both showman and collaborator in a float through Saint-Saëns

Simon Trpčeski, Thomas Søndergård and the RSNORSNO

Edinburgh is lucky to get a lot of high quality musicians coming to perform, not least during the summer festival season, but the most high profile musical visitor to the city this weekend was none other than Taylor Swift. Everyone is talking about her: she was even mentioned by one party in the general election campaign.

The streets are thronged with visitors who have come to see her, and on my way home from this concert I met hordes of smiling fans dressed in cowboy boots and sparkly tops.

Pianist Simon Trpčeski might not quite be in that league of superstardom (yet), and I didn’t notice any cosplaying audience members in the Usher Hall, but he brought a level of flash and sparkle to his performance of Saint-Saëns’ "Egyptian" Concerto that shows he knows how to be a showman. There was a gorgeous sense of air around the first theme, gently swaying and softy propelled, before giving way to a calmly propulsive first movement in which the orchestral sound was gently airborne throughout, thanks as much to the conducting of Thomas Søndergård as to the orchestral playing.

Trpčeski was firmly in the driving seat throughout, however, and he wasn’t above a bit of showboating in the central movement, with some theatrically loaded stares into the audience and some fake conducting with a spare hand. Still, the orientalist flecks of that movement were done in the best possible taste, and there was an understated twinkle to the finale that made it sound more delicate than bombastic. His encore, the central movement of Poulenc’s Flute Sonata, demonstrated his collaborative side, teaming up with the orchestra’s principal flautist, Katherine Bryan, in a performance of gently wistful melancholy.

Ravel's 'Boléro' seemed to be on the programme for no other reason than that it could be The rest of the programme couldn’t quite live up to this level of flair, despite an impressively played account of Grażyna Bacewicz’s Overture for Orchestra, full of livewire energy but always done with the utmost precision. Lutosławski’s Third Symphony was just as precisely played, each of its contrasting episodes allowing the musicians to step into the solo spotlight, almost like a concerto for orchestra. That episodic nature was also its problem, though. Its abrasive fanfare unified its half-hour length, but so diffuse were the symphony’s different components that I was often left wondering exactly where the music was going.

That’s not a question anyone has ever asked about Ravel’s Boléro, the clearest straight line in classical music, though it seemed to be on the programme for no other reason than that it could be. It took a while to settle down, too. Søndergård’s tempo was unusually slow, and it took at least one iteration of the full theme before the different parts of the orchestral palette had properly slotted into place. Nor did it really climax properly, with a sense of holding back right at the moment where everything needed to go over the edge. Maybe that’s just my preference, though. I should probably just shake it off.

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