Daniil Trifonov and Yannick Nézet-Séguin
If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know that I’m a big fan of both artists (e.g. see here for my review their previous Rachmaninov album, or here for a report my recent experience of Nézet-Séguin live, or just use the search function).
Trifonov is without doubt one of the best pianists of our age, and I start to regret not having included him in my list of my Top 10 classical pianists, maybe that blog post needs an update at some point. And Nézet-Séguin is on his path to be one of the truly great conductors of the 21st century.
So when I saw they just released the legendary Rach 2 together, I bought the album immediately.
Destination Rachmaninov: Departure. Piano concertos No. 2 & 4 – Daniil Trifonov – Yannick Nézet-Séguin – The Philadelphia Orchestra
There is no lack of great recordings of Rach2. Andsnes, Zimerman, Buniatishvili (although this recording is bit controversial), not to mention the greats like Richter, or even the composer himself.
How to play this piece? Do you try to keep it more factual, or do you go with the full romantic power of the piece?
Some lessons can be taken from the recording of Rachmaninov with Leopold Stokowski, featuring the very same Philadelphia Orchestra than the current recording. And one thing is clear, already at the time (1924), they went BIG. A lot of power, a lot of rubato, a lot of everything. And guess what, that works! (well the composer should know, you’d presume)
Trifonov and Nézet-Séguin take a very big approach here. You can really float in the big sound of the Philharmonia Orchestra, and soloist and conductor clearly connect. Trifonov clearly is a virtuoso of the highest caliber, so the technical challenges of this massive work just go unnoticed.
Overall, there is a lot of rubato, and the tempo is relatively slow. In some of the slower passages, one even gets reminder of a Bruckner symphony.
Some would argue this is too much. I haven’t seen many reviews yet, but I predict this recording will be a love it or hate it affair.
To make it clear: I love it!
You also get concerto no. 4, but to this day, I’m like quite a large majority of music lovers, I love nos. 2 and 3, and just don’t get 4. So no comment from my side.
What you do get on top is much more interesting, at least to me. Rachmaninov did his transcription of the Violin Partita BWV 1006, a true gem, that I should probably add to my blog post on transcriptions of the Chaconne. Very much worth discovering.
I’m kind of curious about the album title, Departure, and am really wondering where this train takes us next. Let’s hope to an equally spectacular Rach 3!
My rating: 5 stars.
I’m curious to see if my prediction holds true, and there will be both raving and bad reviews of this. I’ll report back when I see them. In the meantime, try before you buy!
UPDATE Oct 30: Well, my prediction of this being a very controversial album already holds true. Check out the comments of my readers below, and you’ll find both love and hate.
In terms of professional reviews, we generally are very positive so far, with four stars from Richard Fairman in the FT, five stars by Andrew Clements in the Guardian, another five stars by Normal Lebrecht. I’m still curious what Gramophone and Classica will think of this.
In any case, try before you buy!
Update March 2, 2019: Classica agrees, and gives this album a “CHOC”, their highest rating. Whereas Gramophone is much less impressed “Overall, this is another fine, well-recorded addition to the lengthy discography but one which neither astonished nor moved me.”
So my prediction that this would be a love it or hate it affair, I was spot on. I still like it very much.