Following his successful 2012 release of the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 with Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra, Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov tries on the more intimate role of recitalist for this live Decca album of solo piano pieces by Frédéric Chopin. Trifonov is a powerhouse in the Lisztian mold, and his incredible technique seems better suited to fast, flashy fingerwork than to more subdued music.
Certain pieces, such as the Rondo in F major, Op. 5, "À la Mazur," the Étude in F major, Op. 10/8, and the Grande Valse Brillante, Op. 18, allow feats of prestidigitation, and there's no denying that he can perform with dazzling virtuosity.
However, Chopin should not be played to set land speed records, and Trifonov is required to show greater variety of tempos, dynamics, and expressions in the Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise Brillante, the set of three Mazurkas, Op. 56, and above all in the Sonata No. 3 in B minor, where more is at stake emotionally and artistically. (It is perhaps of interest to note that the first four tracks were recorded in Venice, while the rest of the album was recorded in Sacile, Italy, so changes in playing style may reflect the different venues.)
Trifonov is obviously more comfortable in glittering showpieces, and this CD confirms that can always entertain with his brilliance. But it is inconclusive about his capacity for emotional growth and ability to play slower and more private music with grace and depth.