Macedonia in 1979, won numerous prizes in international piano
competitions in the U.K. (London International Piano Competition 2000),
Italy and the Czech Republic. From 2001 to 2003, he was a member of the
BBC New Generation Scheme, and he was awarded the Young
Artist Award by the Royal Philharmonic Society in 2003. A 2002 graduate from the
Faculty of Music of the University of St. Cyril and St. Methodius in
Skopje, where he studied with Professor Boris Romanov, Simon now teaches as a faculty member at his alma mater. He has performed with many of the
world's greatest orchestras in North America, Russia, Europe, Australasia including orchestras,
including the New Japan Philharmonic, Hong
Kong Philharmonic, Seoul Philharmonic, Sydney and Melbourne symphony
orchestras and now the New Zealand Symphony.
He began with some very popular pieces which I hear almost every day viz. 4 nocturnes of Chopin: the Nocturnes in B and A flat (Op. 32. Nos. 1 & 2) and then those in C minor and F sharp minor (Op. 48 Nos. 1 & 2) and then continued with 6 compositions from a fellow Macedonian now working in London but little known in Hong Kong, collectively called "Songs and Whispers", written by Pande Shahov. The six pieces were respectively Oro, Scherzo, Elegy, In Struga, Mazurka and Quasi Tocata. Chopin's pieces are familiar to all music lovers and need no introduction but he did explain a little how the six pieces from his fellow countryman came about. According to him, the songs were written by Shahov when he suggested to the latter that he ought to write something to celebrate the bicentenary of Chopin's birth. His friend did so, making use of the melody of one of Chopin's Scherzos and some traditional Macedonian folk melodies but spiced with some very lively jazz rhythms and harmonies because his friend grew up listening to the sound of Keith Jarrett and Egberto Gismonti. Whilst explaining the songs to us, he actually sang them out in his very beautiful and plaintive voice whilst playing the piano accompaniment to give us a flavor of what the original songs sounded like. They were alternatively lively but one of the songs was really sad. What his friend did was to take a few bars of Chopin's music and then developed them in jazz-like fashion with different harmonic progressions. It was the premiere of such songs in Asia!
According to the programme notes, the first song Oro is a traditional circle dance which is played at weddings and parties and is based on the old Macedonian song Pominuvam, zaminuvam or I'm passing by or leaving about the fate of a migrant worker who had to leave his loved ones behind. It started very slowly and softly but picked up force as it moved along.
The second song, Scherzo, is based on Chopin's Scherzo in E (Op. 54). Shahov developed the initial chords into something slow and then very fast but then became very soft and soulful. .
The third one called Elegy is a transcription of a Macedonia folk song called Xi zalljubiv edno mome (I fell in love) and is a lament sung by a man about the girl who falls ill and dies shortly before their wedding. There is a repetitive structure relying on a ground base and has a very fast and jazzy rhythm but then again there is a change of mood.
The fourth one is In Struga which is another transcription of another popular folk song called Na Struga dukjna da imam (I wish I had a shop in Struga), a poetic and vibrant market town in the south west of Macedonia and is about the dreams of an ordinary man to become rich in that tow. It has a very lively jazzy rhythm. to it.
The fifth one called Mazurka takes some chords from Chopin's Mazurka in A minor (Op 17) explores them by playing around with them in a very different idiom but by adding a new melody to the original.
The last one Quasi Tocata, is based on a Macedonian song Serbez Donka, Donka being the name of a girl. According to the composer: "I wanted to create a finale-type movement. The first three notes of the song are repeated note D. I realized I could emphasize the repeated notes and build a toccata. However, in order for the song to be heard and recognized, the repeated notes would have to move to the background and let the melody take over. This is why I called this movement Quasi Tocata. The middle section explores textures not unlike the music of another two composers-pianists whom I like: Rachmaninoff and Scriabin" Trpceski wrote the and the overture and the cadenza for this song.
The second part of the programme consists of two pieces from Franz Liszt. The first is a rather quiet, meditative but romantic piece called Petrarch Sonet 104 (S161 No. 5). written after Liszt got tired of travelling in Italy and Switzerland and forms part of the series he called Années de Pelèrinages (Years of pilgrimage). It is inspired by a poem by the Italian poet Francesco Petrarch (1304-1374) about the ups and down of the roller coasting emotions of a young man for a girl with whom he was madly in love. :
Warfare I cannot wage, yet know not peace,
I fear, I hope, I burn, I grow cold again;
Rise to the skies, then stoop down to the earth;
Grasp the whole world, yet gain nothing.
Prisoner of one who refuses disdain,
I am not made his own, nor given release.
Love slays me not, nor yet will it free me;
Life only increases my hurt.
Slightless I see my love, silent I mourn;
I scorn existence, yet I desire it;
I detest myself, and burn with ardor for another;
I'm caressed by grief and, through my tears, I am happy;
Death and life I both despise:
Such, my love, do you turn me to wretchedness!
It has a very forceful opening, then quietens down and builds up again into a climax in fortissimo octaves, double notes and long trills before finally subsiding. This romantic work was followed by another flowing piece played with the lightest touch foreshadowing the later impressionist style of playing. It's Les jeux d'eau á Villa d'Este. (The play of water at the Villa of the East) S163 No. 4. It is said that it has a religious feel to it because Liszt quoted the bible on the score: "The water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into the everlasting life" (John 4:14). It has a completely different feel, much less passion but more peace. The formal programme end with two more familiar pieces by Chopin: Fantasie Impromptu in C sharp minor Op 66 and his Scherzo No. 1 in B minor. Chopin did not want the first to be published during his lifetime because it was considered too "mawkish". It has since become a favourite piece by piano players because of its very fast and flowing rhythm. The second piece was again a monument of his fluctuating emotions because he was then torn between two loves, in which Chopin developed a melody from a Polish carol Little Jesus.
As usual, Trpceski was generous with encores. He gave three: all popular pieces. The audience was ecstatic: an explosion of spontaneous joy! So was I. It was one of those Sunday afternoons I shall never forget.
Chopin Nocturne Op 32, No. 1
Chopin Nocturne Op. 32. No.2