Makedonissimo, Wigmore Hall, 21 January 2018

This was a very interesting and enjoyable concert. It had sounded like an excellent idea when we saw it announced in the booking schedule:

Simon Trpčeski traces his Macedonian musical roots in Makedonissimo, a programme of folk melodies specially arranged for piano and a band comprising violin, cello, woodwind and percussion.

A close collaboration with Pande Shahov, this concert will be the project’s UK première. Listen out for the strong jazz flavours of the traditional Pajdushka dance.

All of the performers…

Most of the music was based on traditional circle dance music or “oro” music. There is evidence of such music dating back to medieval times, although no evidence that the particular Macedonian folk melodies used by composer Pande Shahov for these pieces are of anything quite like that vintage.

Indeed, Macedonian traditional music, in particular its dance music, prides itself on some extremely complicated rhythms – maxing out at around 22/16 and/but some using 4/4 and trying just about everything in-between. I’d hazard a guess that the more complex ones didn’t emerge until well after the Renaissance. Who knows?…

…and who cares? We heard some wonderful music.

Yes, it was easier to clap along and imagine dancing to the simpler rhythms. Some reminded us a bit of Latin American dance rhythms, simply because of the complexity rather than the exact nature of the rhythms – there was not “too much syncopation” (as Kid Creole might put it) – but there was a decidedly jazz feel to much of it, as promised.

Here is a link to the Wigmore Hall resource on this event.

The musicians were all excellent and enjoying themselves (jazz culture showing its face again). The percussionist, Vlatko Nushev,  had the most amazing beard – twisted into the equivalent of a long pony tail – you can only just see it in this picture:

Vlatko does great beard as well as great percussion

The audience was not the usual Wigmore Hall crowd at all. Hardly any of the usual faces. The Macedonian community had turned out en masse and in style. Before the show they had a reception in the Bechstein Room which must have been 90% of the audience – it took an age to navigate the hall for the start of the show.

Here is a short vid of Simon Trpčeski playing a short piece by Pande Shavov, based on Macedonian folk music, in this case with the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra. It also gives you a feel for Simon Trpčeski’s intense desire to talk about, as well as play, the traditional music of his country; although this piece is more orchestral/classical in style than the small ensemble dance pieces we heard.

Janie assumed that the very dolled-up woman sitting next to her was a Macedonian beauty; during the interval Janie remarked on, as she saw it,  this Macedonian/Eastern European trait of women paying great attention to appearance. So Janie’s heuristics were somewhat dented when that particular woman engaged Janie in conversation as we sat down and it turned out that she was a visitor from Colombia who, purportedly, loves the Wigmore Hall and had picked up a sole ticket next to us…presumably a return.

There had been a rather shady-looking gentleman in a union jack tee-shirt sitting in one of our seats, next to the Colombian woman, when  we arrived. Janie speculated as to whether they were a pair or not. I guessed not, while Janie speculated wildly.

Janie’s other obsession that evening was with the cellist, Alexander Somov, who looked nothing like his picture in the programme. All was explained at the end when the composer, Pande Shahov, came on stage to take a bow and we realised that their pictures had been accidentally switched in the programme.

Pande Shahov, take a bow

We had a thoroughly enjoyable evening and learnt a little bit more about world music than we had known before.

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