CD Review: Silver Age, Works by Prokofiev, Scriabin and Stravinsky (Daniil Trifonov, Valery Gergiev, Mariinsky Opera Orchestra)

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Works by Prokofiev, Scriabin and Stravinsky

Daniil Trifonov, piano. Mariinsky Opera Orchestra/Valery Gergiev

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DG 28948353323 (2 CDs)

Total Time: 145:20

Someone at Deutsche Grammophon seems to think that the way to market classical music now is to give every album a title, no matter how puzzling or confusing it might be. Daniil Trifonov is a principal victim of this quirkiness. His Rachmaninoff concerto CDs bear titles like “Destinations,” “Departure” and “Arrival.” While the performances are quite good the titles are baffling. DG is at it again with this release. “Silver Age” sheds no light at all on the musical contents. Booklet annotator Misha Aster dates the Silver Age from a 1907 Paris concert organized by Diaghilev, then later tells us that “the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 effectively ended the Russian Silver Age.” Trifonov tells us that the Silver Age was “a cocktail of different artistic expressions in agitated interaction.” While the Silver Age apparently lasted from 1907 to 1917 the CD set contains a grab bag of music by Scriabin, Prokofiev and Stravinsky composed between 1896 and 1944. Your guess is as good as mine what this all means – if anything.

Much of the music is for solo piano but there are also concertos by Scriabin and Prokofiev. Trifonov is a formidable technician but in the Prokofiev Piano Sonata No. 8 and Piano Concerto No. 2 he comes up a little short beside recordings by Yuja Wang (DG 1910202) and Evgeny Kissin (EMI 2645362). I must say that I find the Scriabin concerto only moderately interesting – he was 20 when he wrote it. It pales in significance as compared with Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2, written just four years later. In both concertos Gergiev and his orchestra seem rough and ready except in the beautiful string playing which begins the second movement of the Scriabin. No question, this is difficult repertoire and Trifonov is up to the task. But others have brought even more dazzle and far more personality to their work. And DG has not done Trifonov any favours with sound quality that lacks both weight and clarity. 

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About Author

Former conductor and broadcaster, Paul E. Robinson, is the author of four books on conductors, Digital Editor for Classical Voice America, and a regular contributor to La Scena Musicale.

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