Chopin Evocations with Daniil Trifonov

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COMPOSERS: Chopin
LABELS: Deutsche Grammophon
ALBUM TITLE: Chopin Evocations
WORKS: Chopin: Piano Concertos Nos 1 & 2 (orch. Pletnev); Variations on Mozart’s ‘La ci darem la mano’; Rondo in C; Impromptu No. 4; Barber: Nocturne; Grieg: Moods, Op. 73 – ‘Hommage a Chopin’; Mompou: Variations sur un thème de Chopin; Schumann: Carnaval – ‘Chopin’; Tchaikovsky: Morceaux, Op. 72 – Un poco di Chopin
PERFORMER: Daniil Trifonov, Sergei Babayan (piano); Mahler Chamber Orchestra/Mikhail Pletnev
CATALOGUE NO: DG 479 7518

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Pianist du jour Daniil Trifonov continues his commitment to keyboard heavyweights with a bumper release inspired by Chopin, featuring both concertos, plus pieces connected to the Polish composer. Chopin’s piano concertos contain some of the genre’s most expressive writing; the First is particularly expansive and poignant – attributes popular with film makers who see it as a readymade soundtrack (see, for instance, The Truman Show). In this work, Trifonov staves off potential sentimentality and produces – as usual – an exquisite tone. These concertos have been newly orchestrated by pianist-conductor-composer Mikhail Pletnev, who has focused on deeper interplay between soloist and orchestra. Although the piano part remains unaltered, the pared-back texture changes the proportion of the work, resulting in a neater, more streamlined partnership. It also shines a brighter spotlight on the piano, and, in Trifonov’s own words ‘liberates the soloist’. In this sense, the arrangement is perhaps closer in style to the sound that Chopin may have imagined; its lyrical, unstopping solo line now discreet from the orchestral mass. (As an aside, it would be interesting to hear this version performed on a Pleyel, Chopin’s instrument of choice, compared with the ubiquitous Steinway.) Some listeners will undoubtedly miss the epic nature of the original orchestration, but Pletnev’s version is a welcome – and well executed – experiment.

This recording also features pianist Sergei Babayan (Rondo for Two Pianos), who is Trifonov’s mentor. By neat coincidence, Pletnev was once Babayan’s teacher; there is clear musical communication between all three parties. The more unusual Chopin-related pieces included – such as Grieg’s Hommage à Chopin and Barber’s Nocturne – are the icing on a Bake Off-worthy cake. 

Claire Jackson