Philharmonia Orchestra/Vladimir Ashkenazy – Sibelius’s Night Ride and Sunrise & Symphony 5 – Daniil Trifonov plays Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No.3

Night Ride and Sunrise, Op.55
Piano Concerto No.3 in D minor, Op.30
Symphony No.5 in E flat, Op.82

Daniil Trifonov (piano)

Philharmonia Orchestra
Vladimir Ashkenazy

Reviewed by: David Cowling

Reviewed: 17 May, 2015
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Royal Festival Hall

Daniil TrifonovPhotograph: Dario Acosta / DGNightride and Sunrise, given the programmatic suggestion of its title, might be mistaken for one of Sibelius’s earlier tone poems, but only a few bars are required to realise you are in the presence of the composer at his later, inimitable best. Its distinctive textures were treated by an energised Philharmonia Orchestra and the emotive Vladimir Ashkenazy with generous amounts of expressivity. Everything, from the pianissimo playing of the quick and lively strings to the resplendent contributions of the brass, was indicative of deep and thoughtful musicianship. After the interval, Sibelius’s Fifth was played with hardly less enthusiasm, Ashkenazy conducting with dexterity, drawing from the Philharmonia a beautiful resonance, conjuring the environs and wildlife of Ainola, and aided by fine orchestral balance. The shades of dissonance which subtly confuse the triumph of the finale were neither exaggerated nor ignored and led to an impressive conclusion.

In between, Daniil Trifonov’s performance of the Third Piano Concerto may count as his best Rachmaninov yet. The opening melody was treated in a refreshingly unassuming way. Everything that followed was closely aligned with what one imagines Rachmaninov intended this concerto to be – virtuosic, stirring, reflective, and inspired. Trifonov was more than up to the challenge, possessing technique and heart in abundance. In the build-up to the foreboding cadenza (here the fearsome Ossia) as well as the coruscating aftermath over which the flute reprises the opening tune, a perfect tempo created the most-effective transitions while never losing sight of the piece’s direction. Certain moments, such as the dark, savage entry of the piano at the beginning of the slow movement and nostalgic passages in the finale – were played with such confidence, openness and freedom as to belong to the highest order of pianism, aided by the tone of the Fazioli piano. As a short encore, Trifonov intrigued by playing one of his own pieces showing the influence of Rachmaninov in its solipsistic wanderings, Medtner in the folk-rhythm and Debussy in languid, colourful harmonies.

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