Young pianist tracks Chopin's changing moods

by Valerie Kahler, Minnesota Public Radio
July 31, 2007

Simon Trpceski -- Chopin: Piano Sonata No. 2 & Four Scherzos (EMI 75586)

Is it organized chaos, or chaotic organization? Robert Schumann raised that question in a reaction to his friend Frederic Chopin's Piano Sonata No. 2. As Schumann saw the creation of the piece, Chopin had taken a random sampling of his most ill-behaved children and presented them as a family. Never let it be said that genius composers are not equally brilliant at crafting metaphors.

Pianist Simon Trpceski says he thinks the Second Sonata captures all the personality of Chopin: passion, drama, lyricism, elegance, sadness, the longing for true love. Trpceski's newest CD features the Sonata No. 2 as well as the four scherzos by Chopin.

So what was Schumann's beef with the Second Sonata? Well, even the most ardent Chopin fan agrees that one should expect the unexpected in this work. For example, you might expect to hear the opening theme resurface later in the movement. Nope. "Move along," says Chopin.

You might expect a scherzo to maintain its spastic humor throughout...but no. Instead, picture a scherzo and a waltz as the classic cartoon devil and angel, sitting on the pianist's shoulders each exercising influence in turn. Just when you think the gentle waltz has won, the impish scherzo wrestles its way back on top. But wait! Here's the waltz again! No, it's the scherzo. But who gets the last word? You'll have to listen to find out.

The third movement begins with one of music's great melodramatic statements, the ominous tones of the Funeral March. Trpceski has the delicate hand that's needed to take what's become cartoon shorthand for faux-scariness and expose the very real wistfulness and drama.

It becomes even more challenging further along as the march melts into a dreamscape of such sweetness that you can almost see into the memory of the bereaved--lifted, just for a moment, from the relentlessness of Time and Fate.

Simon Trpceski, born in Macedonia in 1979, says he feels a close connection to Chopin and thinks his own personality and temperament complement the composer's. He says, "Chopin was a man of surprise. He changes the mood with great balance and wonderfully chosen means. In the fourth movement we feel an uncertain storm...that is not only in his head, but also in his soul. It leaves us amazed, and leaves us with many questions."

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