Due to the strike by CSO musicians, this program has been canceled. Patrons may exchange their tickets for another upcoming Symphony Center performance, donate their tickets to the CSO or receive a refund. Please contact Patron Services by phone at (312) 294-3000 or by email.
Top-level international soloists have such intense schedules that finding time to fill in at the last minute for an ailing or injured colleague can be nearly impossible. Macedonian pianist Simon Trpčeski did only two or three such substitutions last season, and so far in 2018-19, he hadn’t taken on any assignments of this kind.
But when the administrators of the Symphony Center Presents Piano Series asked if Trpčeski would step in April 28 for an ailing Murray Perahia, he quickly agreed. “This is something special, I would say, because of the legendary status of Maestro Perahia,” he said, “and, of course, the connection and the relationship with the Chicago Symphony that we have recently re-established.”
In mid-February, Trpčeski joined the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as a guest soloist in Sergei Rachmaninov’s ever-popular Piano Concerto No. 3, and this recital gives audiences a chance just two months later to hear him in a different context. It so happened that the pianist had an open slot on his calendar (he had planned to be home to celebrate the Eastern Orthodox Church’s Easter on April 28 with his family), and he was able to move up a previously planned trip to the United States by a few days.
Often for such last-minute recitals, soloists present a comfortable program that they have been performing during that season. But Trpčeski has been focused on concertos and chamber music in 2018-19, so he put together a lineup specifically for this recital. It is a combination of works he has played in the past, as well as one that he will be performing publicly for the first time: Konstantin Chernov’s solo-piano arrangement of Modest Mussorgsky’s famed tone poem, Night on Bald Mountain. “If I can tell you honestly, I’m working on it right now,” he said during a break between performances with the Houston Symphony. “I’m pushing myself a little bit with all this repertory and travel that I have.”
Trpčeski is big fan of such piano transcriptions, and this outing with Night on Bald Mountain sprang from his performances last season of a solo-piano version of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s symphonic suite Scheherazade. He is recording both pieces, along with Sergei Prokofiev’s Old Grandmother’s Tales, on a disc set for release this fall. The connection running through all three Russian pieces, he said, is storytelling.
“People might be skeptical, and from one point of view even rightly so, to hear orchestral pieces on a piano because they are used to the orchestral sound and the colors and maybe even the vast impression that kind of sound can produce on them,” he said. “But I like it when people are open to a different example of that very same music and realistic about the fact that they have been able to listen to some fantastic arrangements of some other very well-known orchestral music like Stravinsky’s Petrouchka or even the Nutcracker Suite by [Mikhail] Pletnev.”
Trpčeski has bookended the program with works by Frederic Chopin: Four Mazurkas, Op. 24, and Scherzo No. 1. The second work on the lineup is the original piano version of Edvard Grieg’s lesser-known Holberg Suite, Op. 40, which consists of an introduction and a set of five dances. It was composed in 1884 in a neo-classical style to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Danish-Norwegian playwright Ludvig Holberg.
Next comes Prokofiev’s rarely heard Old Grandmother’s Tales, a set of four short works that the composer debuted in 1919 in New York City. According to Trpčeski, the lyrical qualities of this music are tinged with irony and dry humor. “It’s wonderful,” he said, “to see that other side of Prokofiev that is usually not connected with the usual sort of impression that most people have of him as a sort of robust and even aggressive composer.”