Rachmaninov’s Piano Trios with Daniil Trifonov

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COMPOSERS: Rachmaninov
ALBUM TITLE: Rachmaninov
WORKS: Rachmaninov: Trios élégiaque Nos 1 & 2; Rachmaninov/Kreisler: Preghiera
PERFORMER: Gidon Kremer (violin), Giedré Dirvanauskaité (cello), Daniil Trifonov (piano)


To celebrate his own 70th birthday, violinist Gidon Kremer has recruited the much-acclaimed pianist Daniil Trifonov and cellist Giedré Dirvanauskaité, a regular partner in Kremerata Baltica projects, to record Rachmaninov’s Piano Trios. These early works have not generally had a good press; even Rachmaninov’s biographer, Geoffrey Norris, has described the Second as ‘of uneven quality’, writing off its second movement – a set of eight variations on a theme from Rachmaninov’s The Rock – as an unworthy companion to its ‘memorable and impressive’ first movement. Kremer and his colleagues have upended that verdict: in their hands, the central movement is an eventful and emotionally eloquent journey, from the theme’s first appearance in quasi-liturgical guise, taking wing in the brilliant third variation, reaching a peak of triumph with the bell-like sixth variation before turning sombre at the seventh with its baleful motif (later used in Rachmaninov’s First Symphony).

They are equally persuasive in the First, a touchingly elegiac if less characteristic work in the style of Rachmaninov’s teacher Arensky. This being Rachmaninov, the main burden in both trios falls to the pianist; such is Trifonov’s artistry that even with his dazzling technique, and without ever selling the emotional intensity of the music short, he never overshadows his colleagues, who in turn realise every colour and expressive import of their parts.

Preghiera, Kreisler’s arrangement for violin and piano of the slow movement from Rachmaninov’s Second Concerto, is kitsch; but Kremer evidently relishes it, and who would begrudge the birthday boy his moment of indulgence in this sugar-frosted confection?

Daniel Jaffé


Listen to an excerpt from this recording here.