First published in the Guardian on 25 May, 2017
Prokofiev: Piano Concertos 1 & 3
Prokofiev wrote his First Piano Concerto as a homework assignment for the St Petersburg Conservatory. (“Give him a good mark,” said the president of the judging panel, “but personally I can’t stand this music.”) A decade later he finished the Third and generally cheeriest of his five piano concertos. In the hands of Simon Trpčeski both really crackle: fiery articulation, brazen rhythms, an ability to navigate corners with a swagger that feels sturdy and nimble at once. The Macedonian pianist doesn’t go in for dark introspection – slow themes tend to be inquisitive rather than outright melancholy – and makes an exception to the rule that all Prokofiev should be laced with sarcasm and subversion. The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra sounds seriously good under Vasily Petrenko – particularly in the proud sweep of the First Concerto’s main theme, the flashes of piquant wit in the extra track, Overture on Hebrew Themes.