Simon Trpčeski, Cristian Măcelaru & Janáček Philharmonic Ostrava - Shostakovich: Piano Concertos & Piano Trio No. 2 - BBC Music Magazine

As David Fanning observes in his liner note, Shostakovich came late to the piano, only beginning lessons when he was nine. But once started he went like the wind, and was playing the Hammerklavier at 15. Coming a disappointing eighth in the Chopin Competition in 1927, he decided to major in composition, and put his pianism on the back burner, reserving it for playing his own works.

This recording, co-produced by and starring Simon Trpčeski, makes a lovely shop window for what the composer could do with the piano. Having started life as a trumpet concerto, the First Piano Concerto reflects Shostakovich’s carefree musical optimism in the early ’30s, and Trpčeski and trumpeter Andrei Kavalinski revel in the work’s radiant virtuosity, with Trpčeski bringing pellucid clarity to the crystalline writing in the Allegro con brio. The relationship between the soloists climaxes headily, as the trumpeter plays straight-man to the pianist’s crazy cartwheels.

Contemporary with the Eighth Symphony, the Second Piano Trio bears the emotional scars of war in the sorrowing lamentation of its Andante and the brutality lurking in its Scherzo; the dance tunes embedded in the finale have a Jewish inflection made all the more poignant for being played fortissimo with mutes.

Shostakovich wrote his Second Piano Concerto for his son Maxim to play and, as Fanning points out, it’s full of family in-jokes including some five-finger studies still sometimes used as a teaching aid. Trpčeski’s performance is glorious throughout: jaunty at the start, exquisite in the Andante with its Rachmaninov echoes, and letting rip wildly in the final explosion of joy.

BBC Music Magazine
01 August 2021