Transcendental: Daniil Trifonov plays Franz Liszt and Bernardino de Ribera’s Magnificats & Motets
Transcendental: Daniil Trifonov plays Franz Liszt (Deutsche Grammophon) The headshot of twenty-five-year-old pianist Daniil Trifonov stares out just now from the covers of both of Britain’s leading music magazines, Gramophone and BBC Music — well-deserved accolades coinciding with the release of his stunning new Liszt recital. Even in a concert culture hungry to applaud “the next big talent,” Trifonov is unquestionably more than a flavor of the month. A product of Moscow’s Gnessin School of Music and the Cleveland Institute of Music, he has technique to spare, even in the taxing repertoire he has selected for these CDs. His readings of Liszt’s 12 Transcendental Etudes are galvanizing throughout. He throws off sparks aplenty in Mazeppa, Feux follets, and Wilde Jagd, as one would expect, but perhaps even more impressive is how captivatingly beautiful the less barnstorming movements emerge under his hands, including an elegant take on Ricordanza that makes it sound like Chopin. His rhythmic sense has energy no matter what the tempo, and his touch, tone, and voicing never stop entrancing the ear. A selection of concert etudes occupies the second CD, including the famous set based on Paganini themes. The fast figuration is stunning and apparently effortless (he makes even La campanella sound easy), but again, the lyric movements set Tifonov apart; you will not be able to settle for listening to his performance of Un sospiro just once. — James M. Keller
BERNARDINO DE RIBERA
Magnificats & Motets (Hyperion) Vandals could not entirely silence Bernardino de Ribera. The maestro de capilla of Toledo Cathedral in Spain at the height of the Counter-Reformation, Ribera saw his works gathered in 1570 into a magnificent volume of 159 parchment folios, its pages enhanced by lavishly embellished initials. The decorations proved nearly fatal. In the 18th century, a rapacious admirer sliced out the illuminated initials and even removed some entire pages, leaving big holes in the music. Many pieces were mutilated beyond recapture, but musicologists have reconstructed some of the works by comparing missing passages with roughly analogous sections that survive unharmed and, most fortunately, by identifying some of these pieces in a set of ancient choral parts in a library in Valencia. Ribera does not show the breadth of his most famous pupil, Tomás Luis de Victoria, but he was nonetheless a master of the luxurious line, proceeding with a linear contrapuntal sound rooted in the style of Josquin and the Franco-Flemish school. He sometimes injects highly expressive turns; in the motet Rex autem
David, King David laments the loss of Absalom, his son, with a heart-rending chromatic descent. Ribera here gets 77 minutes of overdue fame in darkhued interpretations by De Profundis, a 25-member male chorus (singing at a historically likely low pitch) based in Cambridge, England, and solidly directed by David Skinner. — J.M.K.