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With this two-CD album, Daniil Trifonov gives us Liszt’s complete Etudes (apart from ‘Ab Irato’ – a rarely played but suitably ferocious pendant to the Transcendental Etudes). At 25 years old, Trifonov is every inch a master pianist. Blessed with a rare technical prowess, he complements his often phenomenal expertise with an interpretative flair that brings every bar of the Transcendental Etudes to scintillating life. He plays with complete awareness that lyricism is as much a part of Liszt’s style as fierce, high-blown virtuosity: his ‘Paysage’ finally recedes into the far distance; he reminds us that Busoni’s description of ‘La Ricordanza’ (No 9) is ‘like a packet of yellowed love letters’; and he alternates grandeur and introspection in ‘Harmonies du soir’.

‘Feux Follets’ is full of glistening sonority, intricate detailing and, for once, a regard for Liszt’s allegretto marking – a true will-o’- the-wisp. In ‘Wilde Jagd’ (No 8), the hunt is in full cry, making it hard to imagine a more vivid evocation, and the untitled F minor (No 10) puts you in mind of King Arthur wresting Excalibur from its rock. Meanwhile, Trifonov’s mournful retreat from elemental storms in ‘Chasse- Neige’ (No 12) shows you that he is a pianist- composer at heart, such is the immediacy of his inventiveness.

There is superhuman nimbleness in many of the other Etudes, with ultra-precise cascades of thirds at the climax of ‘La Leggierezza’, while his ‘Un Sospiro’ is very much the concert study, its glitter far removed from the moonlit sheen cast across its pages by Géza Anda.

I would never want to be without the Berman or Cziffra recordings of this music, but for a performance that ties everything together in the finest balance of pianistic skills, Trifonov is your man.

BRYCE MORRISON Read the full review on Agora Classica


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