Trifonov’s Tribute to the Last of the Romantics

Star pianist Daniil Trifonov lights up Rachmaninov’s Paganini Rhapsody and keyboard variations as well as his own Rachmaniana in a first studio album for Deutsche Grammophon

“… without question the most astounding young pianist of our age …” (The Times, July 2015)

Daniil Trifonov’s latest recording for Deutsche Grammophon pays homage to his musical idol, Sergei Rachmaninov, as the 24-year-old Russian artist connects with the soul and spirit of his fellow countryman’s art.

Rachmaninov Variations, his first studio album, unlocks the romantic emotions, life-enhancing energy and sheer virtuosity of the fiendishly difficult Variations on a Theme of Chopin and Variations on a Theme of Corelli, both ideal showpieces for this young pianist’s talents. By way of a perfect interlude between these two classics of the solo piano repertoire comes the world premiere recording of Trifonov’s own Rachmaniana, created as a heartfelt tribute to the legendary pianist-composer.

Before all these delights, however, the album revels in the intensity of the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, recorded with Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Philadelphia Orchestra. The connections with Rachmaninov are particularly visceral here, as this was his favourite North American ensemble and gave the Rhapsody’s premiere in 1934, with the composer himself at the piano. As Trifonov observes, “Rachmaninov’s music is part of the DNA of the orchestra; that is why playing his music comes so effortlessly.”

Having begun to play the piano at the age of five and to compose soon after, it didn’t take long for Daniil Trifonov to develop an enduring passion for the expressive eloquence of Rachmaninov’s music. He’s always felt a close cultural identification with the composer, noting, “I relate to his Russian character, as well as his love for the language of musical Romanticism.”

He composed the five-movement Rachmaniana as “a kind of homage to the composer”, a work for solo piano rich in virtuosity, lyricism and what he describes as “nostalgic yearnings” – and that sense of personal affinity with Rachmaninov, enhanced by his experience of performing with the Philadelphia forces, informs his playing in all the works on this album.

Audiences worldwide flock to hear Daniil Trifonov perform. His playing regularly receives five-star reviews, inspiring critical superlatives and positive comparisons with great artists from the past. “In his trance-like dream of a slow movement, Trifonov was closely attuned to each orchestral soloist, and to the emotional heart of Rachmaninov himself,” observed The Times after his interpretation of the First Piano Concerto at the Royal Festival Hall in April. The San Francisco Chronicle wrote of his “warhorse-smashing, wildly entertaining performance” of the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, given at San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall in January last year, while the Washington Post has summarised his performance of this work simply as “a marvel”.

Ute Fesquet, Deutsche Grammophon’s Vice President Artist and Repertoire, is certain that Rachmaninov Variations will delight specialist critics and touch the hearts of all music-lovers. “These interpretations, filled with such originality and vision, confirm Daniil Trifonov’s status as one of today’s greatest pianists, heir to the rich traditions of the Russian school of playing,” she concluded.

Daniil Trifonov returns to Philadelphia this October to perform Rachmaninov’s Fourth Piano Concerto before joining the Philharmonia Orchestra in the UK and Iceland for performances of the composer’s Second Piano Concerto. His 2015/16 season with Rachmaninov continues in November in Japan with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and with performances of the Second, Third and Fourth Piano Concertos in New York with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.