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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

LEBRECHT LISTENS | Daniil Trifonov Gets Dark With 'Destination Rachmaninov'

By Norman Lebrecht on September 21, 2018

Daniil Trifonov
“This recording stands with the greats” — Daniil Trifonov interprets Rachmaninov at his most morose with of Concertos 2 & 4 from Deutsche Grammophon.

Rachmaninov: Concertos 2 & 4 (DG)

★★★★★ (out of five)

Amid the excitement over a rediscovered rehearsal tape of the composer playing Symphonic Dances, there arrives a new account of two concertos with Rachmaninov’s favourite orchestra and the living pianist who most resembles him. Deutsche Grammophon has titled the album Destination Rachmaninov. Departure and furnished the cover with a portrait of the soloist, Daniil Trifonov, sitting in the kind of railway compartment that went out with shellac records. Do not be distracted by these marketing tricks.

Trifonov opens with C minor concerto with quiet authority, each chord darker than the one before, Rachmaninov at his most morose. If this concerto had a physical colour it would be brown, streaked with alabaster flashes of erotic fantasy. Trifonov paints brown deeper than any pianist of the present generation, or the last. He inhabits Rachmaninov’s peculiar mindset, rooted in Russia yet drawn to the West, deeply pessimistic yet abnormally energetic, introspective yet showman-like. The finale of the second concerto comes as close to the source as any recording I know.

The fourth concerto, always problematic, is propelled at speed by Yannick Nézet-Séguin and played by the Philadelphia Orchestra with something of the burnish that so captivated the composer. The Three Blind Mice central movement, often made to sound simplistic, acquires an edge of menace. The finale is pure helter-skelter. Between the two concertos, Trifonov plays Bach transcriptions, just as Rachmaninov might have done. This recording stands with the greats.

Daniil Trifonov – Destination Rachmaninov is available Oct. 12 at Amazon, Spotify, and iTunes.

Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.

Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.
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