Rachmaninov: Piano Concertos – No 2 in C minor, Op 18; No 4 in G minor, Op 40; Bach (transcribed by Rachmaninov): Suite from Violin Partita in E major, BWV1006

Reviewed on Thu 20 Dec, 2018

Daniil Trifonov presents his vision of the music with an empathy for the long line that becomes particularly important in the Second Concerto, which in total has over thirty changes of tempo to emphasise variety of expression.

What’s a transcription? Sir Hubert Parry replies: “An adaptation more intimately suited to the nature of the new medium, taking greater liberties with the original.” Rachmaninov did as much when he transcribed three movements from Bach’s Violin Partita in E major, and displayed his own brand of fervour in a 1942 recording (Naxos) of the piece. Daniil Trifonov doesn’t imitate, instead presents his vision of the music with an empathy for the long line that becomes particularly important in the Second Concerto, which in total has over thirty changes of tempo to emphasise variety of expression. Cohesion is ensured through a symbiotic partnership with Yannick Nézet-Séguin, an acutely responsive conductor who is fully in tune with his soloist’s inherent depth of feeling. It comes to the fore in, for example, the slow movement Adagio sostenuto. The result is contrast without dislocation, a quality equally necessary in the Fourth Concerto, which offers a dramatic first movement, a Largo of desolation, defiance and despair – which Trifonov hones into, Nézet-Séguin with him every step of the way – but a finale where Rachmaninov’s inspiration seems to falter. Throughout the programme the piano-orchestra balance is right, though more space and bloom to the sound would not have come amiss; but this doesn’t impinge on performances of exceptional stature. Enhance the experience if you will by including the ingeniously wrought Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini from the same artists (also DG) in an interpretation of crackling tension and introspective beauty.
–Nalen Anthoni