Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1 - Trifonov, Gergiev

Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1 - Trifonov, Gergiev

Mariinsky  MAR0530

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid


Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1, Un poco di Chopin, Chopin: Bacarolle, Schubert / Liszt: Erlkönig, Frühlingsglaube, Die Forelle, Auf dem Wasser zu Singen, Die Stadt (Schwanengesang), Schumann / Liszt: Liebeslied (Widmung)

Daniil Trifonov (piano)
Mariinsky Orchestra
Valery Gergiev (conductor)

Since winning the International Tchaikovsky Competition in 2011, Daniil Trifonov has established himself as the world's most exciting young pianist. On this, his debut Mariinsky recording, he presents Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No 1 along with a unique selection of recital repertoire.

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Recorded October 2011, January and April 2012 in the Concert Hall of the Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg, Russia

Vladimir Ryabenko, producer & engineer
Vladimir Ryabenko, editing & mixing
Jonathan Stokes (Classic Sound Ltd), mastering
Reviews (2)

Review by Graham Williams - August 31, 2012

The 21 year-old Russian pianist Daniel Trifonov is the latest young piano virtuoso to be hailed by the musical press, not only for his prodigious technique – something that these days is almost taken for granted - but also for the maturity of his performances. During the last couple of years he has won medals at three of the most prestigious competitions in the music world: the Chopin Competition in Warsaw (Third Prize), the Rubinstein Competition in Tel Aviv (First Prize) and the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow (First Prize and Grand Prix). No less a pianist than Martha Argerich has heaped fulsome praise on Trifonov for the tenderness and demonic elements of his playing, both of which are clearly evident on this disc. The performances given here were recorded between October 2011 and April 2012 in the Concert Hall of the Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg.

Sadly the recorded sound In The Tchaikovsky 1st Piano Concerto does not do justice to Trifonov's exhilarating pianism. Vladimir Ryabenko is listed as producer, engineer, editor and mixer with the mastering done by Classic Sound's Jonathan Stokes. What emerged from my speaker's was so disappointing that I could not believe that this was actually SACD. The upper strings of the Mariinsky Orchestra sound thin and nasal, the piano hard and clangorous with the balance very much in favour of that instrument. The surround channels add little to the rather faceless acoustic. Trifonov gives a powerful account of the concerto's outer movements – incandescent virtuosity and confidence rather than subtlety being the order of the day. The middle 'Andantino semplice' shows the pianist at his most sensitive. He plays the song-like main theme with a restrained delicacy while the fast central section is delivered with a mercurial brilliance. Gergiev's accompaniment is dutiful rather than especially illuminating.

Things improve considerably in the somewhat disparate choice of eight solo piano pieces that Daniil Trifonov has chosen to fill the rest of this disc. Though the piano can still sound a little hard above forte it is much more than acceptable. Tchaikovsky's brief 'Un poco di Chopin' – one of his 18 Morceaux Op.72 - is a delightful trifle performed with wit and grace and Daniil Trifonov follows that with a mesmerising account of Chopin's Barcarolle in which he marvellously captures the rapidly changing moods of this masterpiece. The Liszt arrangements of five of Schubert's most well-known songs suit both the eagerness and also the panache of Trifanov's performances as does the lovely account of Schumann's 'Liebeslied' (Widmung) also in the Liszt arrangement that completes his programme. Inexplicably the liner notes accompanying this disc are only concerned with the Tchaikovsky concerto - nothing whatsoever is written about the solo piano music that occupies half the disc.

Shortly after completing this review I attended Trifonov's stunning recital at the Edinburgh International Festival – a programme of Scriabin, Medtner, Debussy and Chopin delivered with a seemingly effortless combination of panache and subtle musicianship. That Daniil Trifanov is a pianist of stupendous talent and huge potential is in no doubt, and it is to be hoped that his gift will continue to be nurtured to full maturity in the coming years. This disc certainly gives a taste of what he has already achieved.

Copyright © 2012 Graham Williams and


Sonics (Multichannel):

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Review by John Miller - September 2, 2012

Below-average sonics greet the listener who has been waiting expectantly for this Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto disc. The sound-stage is nearly flat, even in multi-channel, without real help from the ambience of the Concert Hall of the Mariinsky Theatre. The violins, massed on the left, have little tonal allure, and the other strings, (especially the basses) towards the right are poorly focussed and underpowered, so leaving the sound-stage somewhat lop-sided. The piano, close, hard-sounding and without bloom, has a dead-sounding bass which easily outdoes that of the cellos and string basses together. Tchaikovsky's inventive string accompaniments are often barely audible below the piano line, and the pinched violins sound as though only a few of them are playing. Big climaxes in the last movement sound raucous instead of impressive, and their sound decays very quickly.

Daniil Trifonov is the new pianistic phenomenon, winner of Gergiev's re-vamped Tchaikovsky Competition. He got the Gold Medal and also was awarded the 'Grand Prix' by Gergiev in Moscow. Traditionally, the winner usually records the Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto (yet again) as the world waits to see what the newcomer can do. Already lauded by critics and given approval by such artists as Martha Argerich, Trifonov has already progressed far and clearly has much to offer.

Making movement by movement comparisons between Trifonov and several other fine performances of Tchaikovsky 1 on SA-CD (Volodos - BPO - Ozawa, Sudbin - Sao Paulo - Neschling, Scherbakov - Russian PO -Yablonsky) is quite revealing. Except for Trifonov taking a second or so under the minute slower than Volodos for the first movement, their speeds per movement remarkably differ by only a few seconds. Such agreement between young virtuosi is unusual, and perhaps shows how much an industry recording and playing this single concerto has become.

Trifonov positively tears into the first movement, a confident but a rather stern approach to Tschaikovsky's requirement of "Majesty". He (like others of my sample group) is also too loud. The score has only forte for both piano and orchestra in the starting section. The rhythms of the never-to-be-repeated first tune are also presented somewhat forthrightly by Gerviev and the orchestra, who in general seem to be carrying out a routine duty, while other conductors manage a more waltz-like lift. Trifonov undoubtedly produces some caressingly soft and tender playing, especially in the real second subject, but there is a paucity of characterful nuancing which the other players, digging deeper, produce in their readings.

His slow movement is delightfully simple as required, although the accompanying muted pizzicato string parts are again virtually inaudible (how lovely they sound on the other discs, where they blend with the solo part). The skittish middle section is played capriciously with light humour, although again the accompanying strings are wispy, hollow and poorly defined. Volodos here is entrancingly dream-like, and his middle section full of imaginative dynamic contrasts. Sudbin is all grace and delicacy, and full of joyful touches in his Allegro vivace, meltingly returning to the first subject. Scherbakov has a lovely lilt for the first tune, playing it great lyrical warmth, but he unleashescontrasts of whimsy and irony in his fast section.

Once again caught out by the starting mezzo-forte at the opening (where Volodos and Ozawa have the timpanist give an ff whack which makes listeners jump), the Mariinsky orchestra come in too loudly and still are uninspired accompanists. Trifonov does his best not to emphasise the tendency of the fiery rondo tune to become obsessive, but Volodos is fast and urgent. Ozawa, however, has the BPO already far too loud, so Tchaikovsky's scale for the movement is almost pushed into overdrive (it is, however, very exciting!). Sudbin follows the composer's dynamics fully, so his finale is more musical and characterful, without bombast, although Neschling can't avoid having the Sao Paulo players give it the big Hollywood treatment at the end. Scherbakov's very resonant recording rather makes for noisy climaxes, but his much under-rated version has a finale which is quintessentially Russian; a big-hearted, passionate performance of a great Romantic piano concerto. It seems that Trionov is currently playing this concerto in a very 21st century way; it will be interesting to see how much deeper he can dig in the future. And how much better he could do with an orchestra that really wants to accompany him.

While I doubt if I will bother listening to the Concerto any more, I was much taken by Trifonov's thoughtfully planned recital on the rest of the disk, helped by a better, but still not truly high-definition piano sound. It now has a touch of ambience, although still without bloom. Chopin's Barcarolle is his Mona Lisa; enchanting, enigmatic and requiring true artistry to bring out its poetry. This Trifonov does, courageously, because the Barcarolle is rarely programmed at recitals because of its difficulty. His Liszt-Schubert song arrangements are also beautifully caught on the wing, from the jovial leaping trout to the chilling eeriness of Die Stadt; they reminded me of the late Jorge Bolet's advocacy of them.

The old adage "a curate's egg" seems best to describe this latest Mariinsky issue; audition carefully before purchase.

Copyright © 2012 John Miller and


Sonics (Stereo):

Sonics (Multichannel):

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