Following his successful 2012 release of the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 with Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra, Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov tries on the more intimate role of recitalist for this live Decca album of solo piano pieces by Frédéric Chopin. Trifonov is a powerhouse in the Lisztian mold, and his incredible technique seems better suited to fast, flashy fingerwork than to more subdued music. Certain pieces, such as the Rondo in F major, Op. 5, "À la Mazur," the Étude in F major, Op. 10/8, and the Grande Valse Brillante, Op. 18, allow feats of prestidigitation, and there's no denying that he can perform with dazzling virtuosity.
Traditionalists may rue the day, but the historical performance movement has come to Chopin, and it's clear it has a lot to offer in this release by Argentine pianist Nelson Goerner and the veteran Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century under Frans Brüggen. Goerner plays an 1849 Erard instrument, some 20 years younger than the music of the youthful Chopin that's on the program, but arguably representative of a sound ideal he would have had in his head.
The new recordings of Chopin's works on period instruments allow contemporary listeners to discover the historical models, bringing us closer to the original and to the long-forgotten sound of the Romantic era.
Recorded live at the Moscow Conservatory, this is a truly legendary performance. Any experienced veteran could be proud of it; that a boy of 12 should possess the necessary technique, the musical understanding and maturity, and the sustained concentration, is almost beyond belief. Reveling in his own limitless virtuosity, Kissin seems to be playing with as well as on the piano with elfin grace and delicacy; yet his command of the keyboard his warm, singing, powerful, varied tone are only tools for expressing his spontaneous response to the music.