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Title - Destination Rachmaninov: Piano Ctos & Transcripts
Artist - Daniil Trifonov

For those not in the know, this simply incredible, limited-edition vinyl combines all four Rachmaninov piano concertos and transcriptions from Daniil Trifonov's acclaimed Destination Rachmaninov album series, Departure and Arrival, into one wondrous 4LP set.

Phenomenal Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov traverses the four piano concertos of his musical idol, Sergei Rachmaninov, accompanied by Yannick Nézet-Séguin and The Philadelphia Orchestra.

Brimming with passion, spirituality and technical fireworks, the journey represents an Olympian test for the interpreter while offering an intimate chronicle of life transformed by social, political and cultural currents at the end of the 20th century.

Trifonov's virtuosity and poetic devotion to these concerti is augmented by a selection of his own Rachmaninov transcriptions, including an exclusive, extended version of the beloved Vocalise.

Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943)

LP 1 - Side A:
1. The Silver Sleigh Bells, op. 35, 1st movt. (6:56)
Transcription for piano solo: Daniil Trifonov
Piano Concerto No. 1 in F sharp minor, op.1
2. 1. Vivace - Moderato - Vivace (13:08)

This magnificent 4LP vinyl recording opens with Trifonov’s own transcription of music from Rachmaninov’s choral-orchestral masterpiece, The Silver Sleigh Bells.

Trifonov himself has said that “The work’s fluid energy is highly pianistic, even if it is challenging for the performer to sustain a legato line and soft dynamic range through so much elaborate passagework,” and yet any such challenges are fully mastered in Trifonov’s performance; and his idiomatic transcription would convince anyone that the work was originally written for the piano.

An excellent and most appropriate introduction to Piano Concerto No.1, of that I'm sure you are all well aware by now, furthermore, this is a fantastic performance of The Bells and one that openly resonates throughout.

Indeed, his playing of the up-next concertos is interesting in that he takes slower tempi in certain movements and sections of movements (such as in the 2nd movement of the 1st concerto and in the 3rd movement coda of the 3rd concerto).

Nézet-Séguin and the Philadelphia orchestra provide what well may be the finest orchestral contribution in any set I know and Trifonov shows us why he is such a hot commodity now a days.

If you were not aware, Philadelphia was Rachmaninoff's orchestra where he recorded all of his concertos and the Rhapsody under Stockowski and Ormandy.

LP 2 - Side B:
1. 2. Andante (7:20)
2. 3. Allegro vivace (7:47)
3. Vocalise, op. 34, no. 14 (3:34)
Transcription for piano solo: Daniil Trifonov

Trifonov gives every phrase, every note, every color and every nuance expression with the most coherent, passionate, reflective and stunning musicianship here on this second side; and one that contains the highly impressive Vocalise.

Vocalise is also an expression of deep spiritual longing. The work begins with a motif prefiguring the opening solo piano statement of the Third Concerto, with tightly woven relations between notes, and close, chromatic interrupted progressions.

It's here that Trifonov's transcription heightens the poignant intensity of its feeling.

LP 2 - Side A:
Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, op. 18
1. Moderato - Piu vivo - Allegro - Maestoso (Alla marcia) - Moderato (11:14)
2. Adagio sostenuto (11:47)

Wow! I mean, the technical aspect of Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, op. 18 is simply flawless here. Complete with such brilliant energy and touch from the man himself, the phrasing of the Partia is quite striking alone.

I mean, this often-recorded and played Second features Trifonov’s combination of possessed frenzy and ardent lovemaking, belaying his unswervingly amazing technique.

Each note can be easily identified, yet they cascade smoothly like a pulsating waterfall. The combination of strength and tenderness more than validate why I love Trifonov and his dedicated performances.

Indeed, and telling it like it is, Trifonov is a true master and this has to be, if only in my own humble opinion, one of the greatest works he has done thus far.

He plays lighter and faster than some, but the clarity and poetry is there in spades in the concertos and the Philadelphia Orchestra offers superb support throughout, of course.

LP 2 - Side B:
1. 3. Allegro scherzando - Moderato - Allegro scherzando - Presto - Moderato - Allegro scherzando - Alla breve. Agitato - Presto - Maestoso - Risoluto (12:16)
Suite from J.S. Bach's Partita for Violin solo in E major BWV 1006
Transcription for piano
2. 1. Preludio. Non allegro (3:48)
3. 2. Gavotte (2:45)
4. 3. Gigue (1:42)

As always, it's simply terrific to hear Trifonov perform these pieces with the masterful Philadelphia Orchestra playing the same pieces Rachmaninov played with them.

Also loved the very playful Bach transcription from Shostakovich in the middle of these works. The soulful, introspective aspect to Rachmaninov's musical expression, his symbiosis of cultural nostalgic and spiritual longing, comes to its fullest expression in the Partita suite.

What occurs deep within this particular movement is a good example of pianist and conductor masterful control over tempo changes. The peek of the musical phrase is emphasized with slowing down, holding all the weight, while right afterward the pianist takes us back to the original tempo with his solo re-entering.

On other performances, it would have sounded too “romanticized” – here it sounds just right.

LP 3 - Side A:
Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, op. 30
1. 1. Allegro ma non tanto (17:26)

Rachmaninoff’s No. 3 is one of my all-time favorite works, as is also Horowitz’s 1951 with Reiner and 1978 with Ormandy. Trifonov’s recording is one to retain however, does not outrank Horowitz, in my humble opinion.

Looking deeper into this third movement, here in sonata-rondo form, it's another opportunity for flashy brilliance, which Trifonov and the Philadelphians clearly relish.

Certainly, we hear why Rachmaninov himself thought so highly of this concerto and was so often frustrated when concert promoters did not share that enthusiasm.

That said, Trifonov's interpretations, well, they are, nevertheless, convincing, and come across as heartfelt and sincere. The emotional communication in the performances is key here as they are very moving performances, one and all.

LP 3 - Side B:
1. 2. Intermezzo. Adagio - attacca: (11:19)
2. 3. Finale. Alla breve (14:25)

There are truly very few players today that can bring the clarity that Trifonov himself does in the composer's polyphonic textures, and do it at top speed besides.

Give it a moment to sink in, and it will sweep you along. Sample the first movement of Intermezzo. Adagio and you will be as spellbound hearing it for the first time (via Trifonov) and still more so twenty listens later, you have my word.

Furthermore, and in lesser hands, the music could have been overly flashy and loud, moving from one climax to the next, but Trifonov and Nézet-Séguin are clearly focused on allowing the music to continually grow and expand into the overwhelming hymn of praise unleashed in the coda.

LP 4 - Side A:
Piano Concerto No. 4 in G minor, op. 40
1. 1. Allegro vivace (10:06)
2. 2. Largo (7:05)

If you heard some hidden treasures in the Second Concerto’s score, then you’re in for a treat in this version of the Fourth, maybe even more impressive a performance than the second.

One has to admit the piece’s small weaknesses; it’s not as accessible, seductive or well-organized a composition as the other three concertos, but it certainly can’t be dismissed or ignored for lack of originality.

Indeed, the performance of the Fourth Concerto, which Rachmaninov premiered in Philadelphia in 1927, is equally exceptional here to my mind.

The orchestra’s ability to weave silky, technicolor webs of sound comes into its own here, just as the extraordinary crispness and rhythmic precision of Trifonov’s playing is showcased to near perfection in the most glorious finale.

LP 4 - Side B:
1. 3. Allegro vivace (9:24)
2. Vocalise, op. 34 no. 14 (long version) (5:09)
Transcription for piano solo: Daniil Trifonov (Bonus Track)

On the album-ending Allegro vivace, whether the Philadelphia Orchestra under Yannick Nézet-Seguin is swept up in the excitement or simply draws on institutional memory (Rachmaninov himself played the concerto with the orchestra under Eugene Ormandy in 1941), the strings have rarely sounded so penetrating and rich.

There’s also a rather tremendous verve and dash in the finale, too, which the score clearly invites – particularly if you recall the original Allegro scherzando, rather than the Allegro vivace of the revision.

Oh, and whether Trifonov’s opening solo in the slow movement strays over the border between expressive and self-indulgent maybe a personal matter.

As with the aforementioned shorter version, Vocalise here is curiously subdued at first and then, just as curiously, the tone hardens as the texture grows; especially here on this long version.

in closing, what strikes the most about Trifonov and Nézet-Séguin’s version is how modern it can sound in the right hands. I mean, finally you could hear Rachmaninov looking forward to the 20th century rather than looking back to the 19th.

Official 4LP Vinyl Purchase Link