Classical CD Reviews

CHOPIN: Rondo a la Mazur; Brillante in E-flat Major; Etude in F Major; Andante Spianato et Grande Polonaise Brillante; 3 Mazurkas; Sonata No. 3 – Danil Trifonov, piano – Decca

Danil Trifonov’s 2010 Chopin recitals confirm his status as a rising star among the practitioners of his keyboard art.

Published on April 15, 2013

CHOPIN: Rondo a la Mazur, Op. 5; Brillante in E-flat Major, Op. 18; Etude in F Major, Op. 10, No. 8; Andante Spianato et Grande Polonaise Brillante, Op. 22; 3 Mazurkas, Op. 56; Sonata No. 3 in B Minor, Op. 58 – Danil Trifonov, piano – Decca B0018271-02, 66:27 ****:

Russian piano virtuoso Danil Trifonov (b. 1991) turns to the music of Chopin (rec. in Venice , May and November 2010)  with a fascinating mix of pieces, known and relatively obscure. Trifonov opens with the latter, usually reserved for those few “integralists” who survey all of the composer’s oeuvre: the F Major Rondo a Mazur, Op. 5 (1826), set in five sections of alternating moods and tonality, from F to B-flat Major. The rustic mazurka finds a counter-theme of serene, lyrical stamp, marked Tranquillamente e cantabile. Trifonov exhibits his patented quick filigree and lithe, arched phrases that delight and astound, at once. Equally brisk and elfin, the famed Grande Valse in E-flat Major (1834) moves through the salon and the dance hall with a cheerful sine qua non of fertile instrumental mastery. A splendid color piece for the keyboard, it always evinces from the major pianists a carefree assurance upon which each artist stamps a tempo rubato of his own making.

More sheer bravura lights up the F Major Etude, whose right hand sixteenth notes bubble and effervesce in champagne of the spirit while the left hints at some deeper melos. The 1838 arrangement of the Andante Spianato in G spliced to the E-flat Major Grande Polonaise Brillante forever shimmers in the recorded, luminous hands of Josef Hofmann, whom Trifonov clearly imitates. The 6/8 opening basks in a serene cascade of sound, the counter-melody a canter of national origin. Trifonov takes the poetic section quickly, unsentimentally but poignantly. With the fanfare and galloping Hussars we enter the salon swirls of the Polonaise. Lithe digital finesse and canny manipulation of dynamics keep the decorative dance in attractive motion; and along with renditions by Rubinstein and Arrau, I rate this reading high. Pregnant slowing and lingering hesitations imbue the more dramatic sections with a feminine charm, quite beguiling, especially when the more contrasting, assertive versions of the dance burst forth. The formerly silent audience bursts forth with ardent appreciation.

The three mazurkas of Chopin’s Op. 56 (1843) reveal the advanced harmony and idiosyncratic polyphony Chopin had mastered in his late style. The opening the salon-style B Major by Trifonov negotiates in delicate but virile figures the cross of waltz and folk dance the piece synthesizes. The lusty C Major pits a potent drone bass against a series of national rhythmic impulses that burst forth in assertive pageantry. The middle section anticipates Debussy in its liquid mix of harmony and dynamic colors. The C Minor takes on epic proportions, a quasi-ballad in Polish national figures and personal meditation. Anguish and gallantry evolve through the course of Trifonov’s finely molded realization, strong in rhythm and often diaphanous in texture. A hint of tragedy crosses the brow of this large piece, whose occasional labyrinths pass by but not before having left a pause in our hearts in the face of mortality.

We approach the Trifonov B Minor Sonata (1844) with the same anticipation we had for those recordings by equally impressive youthful talents, Kapell and Lipatti. Like them, Trifonov captures the lyrical fusion of poetry with more volcanic energies, the sonata-form’s undergoing individual transformations as the second theme replaces the first in the order of the recapitulation, which moves to the tonic major. Trifonov, like Lipatti, moves seamlessly through the Allegro maestoso’s often stentorian, grumbling modulations and flights of exalted fancy. The gallop that evolves anticipates the same ferocious momentum with which the sonata concludes. The E-flat Scherzo skitters by in deft but equally unsettling moments of violent outburst. The B Major middle section has a purity of melancholy line within its counterpoint that eludes easy categories. Trifonov realizes the otherworldly Largo as a dream in three sections, operatic, rocking, and murmuring. The arches of sound hang in suspended time, an Italian garden or grand villa haunted by erotic memories. As virtuosic as the Finale: Presto ma non tanto can become, Trifonov holds back in the course of galloping, relentless tarantella to allow the flights of fancy their pearly persuasion.  An airy, even breezy panache infiltrates the course of the chromatic furies that rear their manic heads, as though Orpheus were confident in his ability to rein the titanic forces that this music envelops in the throes of a thundering rondo. Healthy bravos ensue for Mr. Trifonov.

—Gary Lemco

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