TCHAIKOVSKY: Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor, Op. 23. Un Poco di Chopin. CHOPIN: Barcarolle, Op. 60. SCHUBERT-LISZT: Erkönig. Frühlingsglaube. Die Forelle. Auf Dem Wasser Zu Singen. Die Stadt. SCHUMANN-LISZT: Liebeslied (Widmung)
Daniil Trifonov, piano; Mariibnsky Orch/Valery Gergiev, cond

MAHLER: Symphony No. 1 in D "The Titan"
Budapest Festival Orch/Iván Fischer, cond.

RESPIGHI: Belfagor Overture. Suite from Belkis, Queen of Sheba. Church Windows
Radio Philharmonic Orchestra of Holland/Vladimir Ashkenazy, cond.
EXTON SACD OVCL 00216 TT: 60:37

20-year old Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov is the latest star on the pianistic horizon. He has won a number of major competitions including first prize at the 13th International Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition, and first prize at the XIV International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. It is for good reason that he has won all those prizes—he has an astounding technique, beautiful tone, and solid musicianship as well. And he is pleasant to watch with none of the phony agonized facial expressions that mar so many of today's pianists (You can see Trifonov playing Rachmaninoff's Paganini Rhapsody with Mehta and the New York Philharmonic on YouTube, and a Moscow performance of Tchaikovsky 1). He offers a sterling performance of the latter on this new recording made in October of last year. I'm sure he could play those infamous first-movement octaves faster if he chose to do so. And to show his more sensitive side, Trifonov plays a group of solos featuring Liszt transcriptions of Schubert and Schumann. Audio on this release is superior to what is heard on the Mariinsky/Gergiev recording of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 with Denis Matsuev, which had muddy piano sound(REVIEW).

Iván Fischer and his first-class Budapest Festival Orchestra already have to their credit superb recordings of Mahler's Symphonies 2, 4, and 6. This splendid Mahler First was recorded October 2011 after a series of live performances. There are countless superb recordings of this most popular Mahler symphony (Arkive lists more than four dozen by major conductors, many of whom have recorded it more than once). But this new one surely is among the finest, particularly because it boasts uncommonly rich, wide-range and well-balanced sound, not particularly "surround" but highly satisfying.

Several months ago, this site recommended a superb Exton issue of Respighi's Roman Trilogy with Vladimir Ashkenazy and Holland's Radio Philharmonic (REVIEW). Now we have a partner for it, this coupling of three more colorful orchestral showpieces by Respighi. It begins with the overture to the comic opera Belfagor which had its unsuccessful premiere at La Scala in 1923. The sprightly overture has remained in the repertory, and is given en a terrific performance on this new SACD. Even better are the two other works, a suite from the 1930 ballet Belkis, Queen of Sheba which includes the exciting War Dance. And we have that long-standing sonic showpiece, Church Windows, four symphonic impressions (The Flight into Egypt, St. Michael Archangel, The Matins of St. Clare, St. Gregory the Great) written three years earlier. Audiophiles have long treasured the huge gong at the end of the second movement (heard on Ashkenazy's recording at 5:48 in track 7). This site previously has discussed this music and reordings of it, most recently November 2009 when Pristine Audio released a stunning transfer of the 1954 Mercury Minneapolis Symphony/Antal Dorati performance (REVIEW). Ashkenazy's recording is even more impressive sonically with a gong lasting about a half minute and underpinned with organ. The 5.0 audio will delight sound buffs, particularly those who have low-end speakers that can handle these masses of sound. Don't miss this one!

R.E.B. (September 2012)