Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, Op. 11 (arr. string orchestra Wojciech Rajski) [41:19]
Barcarolle in F sharp major, Op. 60 [8:46]
Impromptu No. 1 in A flat major, Op. 29 [3:55]
Impromptu No. 2 in F sharp major, Op. 36 [6:20]
Tarantella in A flat major, Op. 43 [3:07]
Daniil Trifonov (piano)
Polish Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Sopot/Wojciech Rajski
rec. December 2010, St Moniuszko Academy of Music, Gdańsk
DUX 0832 [63:30]

Chopin features prominently in the Trifonov repertory. Last year I reviewed a 2-CD set from DG of the pianist performing solo piano works by the Polish composer. The present recording from the Dux label captures the young pianist in December 2010. This was shortly after he won third prize at the XVI International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw.

The Concerto is performed in an arrangement for string orchestra made by the conductor Wojciech Rajski. The absence of woodwinds, although robbing the orchestral sonority of some colour, doesn’t bother me too much. The Polish Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Sopot have a rich, vibrant sound with plenty of bloom and they’ve been well-recorded. Rajski proves a sensitive conductor, with the subtleties and nuances of the score at his fingertips. Trifonov has an instinctive feel for this music and his playing has all the hallmarks of maturity and refinement. He’s always sensitive to its contours, shaping the phrases naturally. His phenomenal technique reveals a high degree of polish and finish. The central Romance has some lovely moments, with the hushed strings providing a radiant backdrop. The pianist’s variety of touch and achievement of colour ensures his sound is never monochrome, but emits luminosity and glow in a kaleidoscope of hues. The frolicsome finale is buoyant, doesn’t sound rushed, and fully captures the character of the dance. Trifonov’s consummate refinement reminds me of Krystian Zimerman and his excellent recording of the two concertos on DG (review), in which he directs the Polish Chamber Orchestra. On the downside Zimerman's tempi can occasionally be on the slow side.

The four solo pieces are a welcome addition. The Barcarolle is a poised and elegant reading, brimming with poetic insights and delicately voiced. Rubato is tastefully applied. The Impromptus, quite rightly, have an improvisatory feel to them, and depict some enchanting musical landscapes. It’s a pity we don’t get the Impromptu in G flat, which is my favourite of the three. The short Tarantella brings the recital to a lusty climax.

Dux provides some excellent booklet notes, in English only. They discuss in detail the works played, as well as providing portraits of all participants. Sound quality is second-to-none, with the balance between the piano and orchestra in the concerto ideal in every respect.

Stephen Greenbank

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