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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 27, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 17
The welcome return of Trpceski
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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The welcome return of Trpceski

by Rod Parke - SGN A&E Writer

Simon Trpceski with the SSO
April 19
Benaroya Hall


The issue of a female conductor should be a non-issue, but there are so few of them that it still seems to be a big deal. When Susanna Mälkki strode out on the stage, she seemed eager and assured. And indeed the response she got from the players was lively and effective. She is a handsome, slender woman with lovely, short blonde hair. She wore a tux. Her conducting style included a very clear beat and very large gestures, often with both hands way above her head, making the stroke of her beat about 3 feet from top to bottom! I found the excessive movements a little distracting and certainly more than needed to signal her desires to the orchestra. In fact, they reminded me of how I at age 9 conducted our 78 rpm record of 'The Hall of the Mountain King,' falling on the bed in exhaustion at the final crashing cords. So, let's say she was really involved in the music!

Mälkki began her program with the 'Symphony No. 1' of Henri Dutilleux (1951), a composer increasingly familiar to Seattle audiences since the arrival of music director Ludovic Morlot. This work was the composer's first work for orchestra, a fact all the most startling when one listens to the brilliance of the orchestration. Dutilleux is a fine craftsman, producing innovative sounds, complex textures, and consistently interesting ideas. I particularly liked the first movement, which takes the form of a passacaglia, a melodic pattern that repeats throughout the movement with varying instrumentation. It began very softly in the basses and gradually building to a ferocious climax. The orchestra was very large, but handled with such skill that nothing seemed overdone or messy. A glockenspiel and celeste lent a dreamy kind of sensuousness at times. As with the other works by Dutilleux we have heard this season, the overall effect was enjoyable but too complex to fully appreciate on one hearing.

The return of Macedonian pianist Simon Trpceski was what most drew me to this concert. He has appeared both with the SSO and in recital at Meany Theater, always to great acclaim. His visit this time marked, as he explained to the audience, the tenth anniversary of his U.S. debut, which was in fact in Seattle. He added that this time he was especially happy to have his mother and sister with him.

Trpceski began with the U.S. premiere of 'Fantasy on Two Folk Tunes,' composed last year for this pianist and dedicated to him by fellow Macedonian Damir Imeri. In two parts, it began with an upbeat, sometimes jazzy take on a light-hearted folk tune and concluded with a more lyrical one. Trpceski seemed utterly at home with its rather informal manner and made light of the technical demands, as though he was tossing a little something off in our parlor. It was fun, and I think that's all it tried to be.

After intermission, Trpceski returned for the witty, delightful, and very jazzy 'Piano Concerto in G major' by Maurice Ravel (1937). The pianist left nothing to be desired, missing none of the work's playful humor and buoyant spirits. I did feel Ms. Mälkki did miss some of the fun in the orchestra, underplaying some of the jazz elements. Nonetheless, the work was a joy to hear, and the audience response reflected that. Of special merit was the lovely solo for English Horn by Stefan Farkas in the second movement.

The biggest success of the evening for the Orchestra was in Paul Dukas' 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice,' one of those works taken over for many of us by Disney's great animation. So fine were all the orchestral details, and so well were the dramatic climaxes fashioned that I was able to forget Mickey Mouse and fall in love with the score all over again. Give credit to Mälkki for excellent work both in this late romantic piece and in the more modern idiom of Henri Dutilleux.

Reviewer Rod Parke can be reached at rmp62@columbia.edu.

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