There is a certain magic in the two disc compilation. This emanates from the intrinsic beauty of the imaginatively and eclectically chosen by Trifonov works written or inspired by Chopin; the exquisite rendition by a profusely talented Trifonov; and the streamlining of the orchestration by Pletnev of Chopin's two piano concertos to restore them to the intimacy of chamber music and to allow for a more meaningful interaction between soloists and orchestra.
Trifonov's insightful and fluid rendition captures all the nobility, elegance, subtlety, lyrical grace, harmonic adventure, and luminous virtuosity of the works.
We listen to Chopin's eight variations on 'La ci darem le mano' from the opera Don Giovanni by Mozart, conjuring the seductive flamboyance of Mozart's hero.
We also listen to miniature gems created by composers to pay homage to the virtually in exhaustive melodic imagination of Chopin: Schumann with a brief, intimate portrait in his car naval op.9; Tchaikovsky in 'Un poco di Chopin; Grieg in 'Homage a Chopin' and Samuel Barber in a Nocturne with structure and brooding idiom alluding to Chopin and the Nocturne form he pioneered.
Trifonov's program of Chopin music is framed by another set of variations, those by the Catalan composer Frederic Mompou. Nominally based on the famous A major Prelude from op. 28, the twelve variations contain numerous allusions to aspects of Chopin's form and style, as well as direct and indirect quotations from other pieces. Mompou meditates upon the simplest Chopin melody, exploring each aspect of its rhythmic, harmonic, and expressive potential, in relation to itself and in relation to Chopin's musical significance. The expressive tenth variation poignantly illustrates this spiritual exploration, blending a sophisticated iteration of the main theme with an unexpected appearance of the plaintive melody from the middle section of Chopin's 'Fantaisie - Impromptu'. Layering diachronic and affective musing, this variation, named by Mompou 'Evocation', lends its name to Trifonov's album.
The album is completed with the stunning rendition of Chopin's devilishly difficult Rondo for two pianos by Trifonov and his teacher Babayan.
It is apparent that the aim of this brilliant compilation is to reveal that the genius of Chopin becomes clearer in the context of those who influenced him and those who have been inspired by him.
Despite being still only in his mid 20s, Daniil Trifonov is already one of the best pianists this century has seen. While the celebrated Grammy-winning (and jaw-dropping, as far as virtuosity is concerned) performance of Liszt Etudes (Transcendental) has won him many accolades, most recently a Grammy for Best Instrumental Classical Solo, in this album of Chopin works and compositions inspired by the Great Piano Poet, the sublimely-playing Russian is at his most lyrical. Maturity far beyond his age can be heard in both Chopin concertos (lovingly arranged for a more chamber-size orchestra by Mikhail Pletnev), but also in other Chopin works (the seldom-recorded Rondo was a revelation to me). Although not essential, this double-album brings yet another view on Chopin and his world, when you could think no-one can come up with anything new.