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This programme of chamber music by Schubert represents a distinct step forward in the musical progress of the young Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov. Recently drowned in heavy molasses of Chopin concertos as arranged and conducted by Mikhail Pletnev (DG 4797518), here Trifonov triumphs by anchoring an occasionally wayward superstar violinist, Anne-Sophie Mutter, whose phrasing is not quite as self- abnegating as the finest ensemble leaders.

Trifonov’s playing is straightforward, joyous and celebratory. Only in the fourth movement of the quintet does the pianist behave like a virtuoso trying to draw attention to himself by playing as fast as humanly possible. Perhaps the presence of gifted soloists in the ensemble, such as the double bass player Roman Patkoló and cellist Maximilian Hornung, helped remind the Russian pianist to refrain from showing off unduly. He fits aptly into the sonic texture of the poignant Nocturne for piano trio.

Only in two short encore pieces tacked on to the end of the CD do the vagaries of Mutter deleteriously impinge on Trifonov’s playing. Faced with musty and dusty arrangements by Mischa Elman of Schubert’s Serenade and by August Wilhelmj and Jascha Heifetz of Ave Maria, the performers choose to render them in a comparably outdated salon style. Trifonov’s pianism here creeps about in a servile manner as if belonging to the démodé ‘Am-I-Too-Loud?’ school of keyboard accompaniment. Instead of this creaky star turn for the violinist tacked on as an afterthought, the CD might have been topped up instead with some Schubert songs; Trifonov, by the evidence of the other pieces here, would have been fully up to the challenge of accompanying a singer. Perhaps one day he will be permitted to record Schubert’s Lieder cycles with a musically astute partner, in a further stage of his ongoing development as an all-round compelling artist.

BENJAMIN IVRY Read the full review on Agora Classica


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