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The Russian virtuoso Daniil Trifonov is one of today’s deft young keyboard talents. He manages a crackerjack Grieg Study, ‘Hommage to Chopin’ Op 73/5, showing the same gift for dazzling miniatures as in previous CD performances of Medtner (DG 479 1728). A winsomely pretty Tchaikovsky ‘Un poco di Chopin’ Op72/15, and vigorous Chopin Fantaisie-Impromptu are other highlights, showing gratifying improvement from his uneven debut CD in Chopin (Decca 4764347).

Yet alas, the concertos! In a previous CD (Dux 0832), Trifonov recorded Chopin’s Concerto No 1 in a reduced orchestration for strings. Now the conductor and arranger Pletnev, according to CD booklet notes, has ‘restored’ both concertos to ‘more chamber-like proportions’. Pletnev’s pompous, fustian readings recall an off-day at the Bolshoi ballet in the 1950s when lumbering veterans acerbically mimed romantic involvement.

The Concerto No 2 has an absence of momentum and verve here, and Trifonov provides much inconsequential noodling. The final Allegro vivace movement sounds brisker, but feeling or involvement are still wanting. Even worse is the grim death march of an opening movement in the first concerto.

The same stately, musty aura invades the Chopin Rondo in C major Op posth 73, played with Trifonov’s teacher Sergei Babayan. Other disappointing solo efforts include lugubrious Variations on ‘Là ci darem la mano’ by Chopin; lifeless trudging through Mompou’s Variations on a Theme by Chopin; a dainty, emotionally hollow snippet from Schumann’s Carnaval and a cluelessly played bit of Samuel Barber. Trifonov’s artistry is still a work in progress; staying away from Pletnev and his arrangements would appear to be a sine qua non for further development.

BENJAMIN IVRY Read the full review on Agora Classica

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