Daniil Trifonov's Carnegie Recital

Daniil Trifonov
Sinfini Music

By Julian Haylock

Prizewinning young Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov's recording of his recital in New York's Carnegie Hall displays a dazzling talent and phenomenal level of accomplishment, says Julian Haylock.

Label: Deutsche Grammophon Classics

Rating 4 stars

Alexander Scriabin was music’s most deluded megalomaniac. Carrying the late 19th-century’s popular cultural interest in theosophy to its outer limits, he believed that the world’s ills could only be cured through a single cataclysmic event and that he was the person destined to bring it about! Be that as it may, no one can deny his propensity for creating explosions of sound out of highly compressed musical materials and it is the resulting sensation of music barely kept on the leash that makes Daniil Trifonov’s account of the Second Sonata so memorable. Like the music itself, he can turn a musical 180 degrees in a split-second, from half-spoken gestures of poetic introspection to volcanic explosions of sound.

Liszt’s epic 1854 Sonata in B minor – described by the notoriously conservative Viennese critic Eduard Hanslick as ‘a bloody battle against everything that is musical’ – similarly runs the gamut of emotions, bringing music of startlingly different hues within frighteningly close proximity of one another. Trifonov fearlessly probes the music’s wild imaginings, creating a compelling emotional narrative out of a work whose episodic patternings can structurally disintegrate in the wrong hands. He thrillingly encapsulates the qualities of two other ‘yellow label’ alumni, combining the crystal technical clarity and superhuman reflexes of Krystian Zimerman with the incendiary spontaneity of Martha Argerich.

The 24 Preludes represent the pinnacle of Chopin's achievement, ranging from the technically facile and charmingly seductive to restless microcosms of emotional angst. Compared to the magisterial Maurizio Pollini (another DG stable-mate), Trifonov is more inclined towards impressionistic washes of colour, offering a Turneresque counterpart to the Italian’s fine-etched Caspar David Friedrich canvases. He makes each Prelude a striking study in sound, with voices emerging and receding in and out of the textures with exquisite subtlety. There is an underlying, probing restlessness about Trifonov’s interpretative vision that on occasion (the central section of the Liszt, for example) is almost too much of a good thing, yet this is still playing at a phenomenal level of accomplishment. More soon, please!