It would be very easy for Daniil Trifonov, only just 26 and with the world at his feet, to spend his time in the solo spotlight, so it’s good to hear him playing chamber music. And this is a fascinating disc, bringing together Trifonov with Gidon Kremer – 70 this year – and cellist Giedre˙ Dirvanauskaite˙, one of the founding members of Kremerata Baltica. Kremer has never stopped exploring and in the promo DG video he talks about this being the right time to be immersed in Rachmaninov: ‘Playing his music is like attending a Mass. You enter a spiritual space where every emotion is allowed but the main emotion remains love, which is familiar to everyone.’
The Second Trio sets off with a quiet solemnity, the two string players duetting ardently above the steady tread of the piano. There’s much to thrill here, but still more striking are the moments of stillness and the way the movement unfolds seamlessly. The Maestoso section (4'40"), where the strings launch into driving triplets, is truly compelling but just listen to the way the tempo relaxes again, the high-lying cello melody (6'00") played with great poise by Dirvanauskaite˙.
However, I do find Trifonov makes too much of a meal of the theme for the second-movement variations. The numbers are telling: he takes 2'40"; Berezovsky takes 2'27"; Kozhukhin at the 2011 Lugano Festival a mere 1'43" – the latter two still managing to be eloquent and expressive. But matters improve greatly once the variations begin and there are many moments of great felicity, gossamer figuration in plentiful supply. The finale has all the muscle the music needs – Trifonov’s considerable technique comes into its own here – but more importantly there’s an urgency of expression that feels entirely natural.
Though the First Trio is a student work, it is immediately recognisable as Rachmaninov and once again these players vividly convey the music’s architecture and the ebb and flow of its emotions, from a mood of the quietest intimacy to wild extroversion. There’s another rarity to open the disc: Kreisler’s Preghiera for violin and piano, based on the slow movement of Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto, in which we hear to good effect the sheer range of colour in Kremer’s playing, particularly potent in the lower registers.