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Tran­scen­den­tal: Daniil Tri­fonov plays Franz Liszt and Bernardino de Rib­era’s Mag­ni­fi­cats & Motets

DANIIL TRI­FONOV

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.

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