New piano albums by Daniil Trifonov and Daniel Barenboim

Here are two new piano recordings from the German yellow label, but the pleasures are contrasted and mixed.

Young Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov is the perfect exponent for Franz Liszt's multi-layered virtuosity, none better displayed than in his four important sets of piano etudes, performed complete.

The 12 Transcendental Etudes occupy the first disc and one scrambles for superlatives when faced with the fine filigree of Feux Follets or the variegated and sonorous chords of Mazeppa, Wilde Jagd (Wild Hunt) and Harmonies Du Soir.

The second disc, which houses the five Concert Etudes and Paganini Etudes, is just as astonishing, with performances of Un Sospiro, Waldesrauschen (Forest Murmurs), Gnomenreigen (Dance Of The Gnomes) and La Campanella that rival the best on record.

  • CLASSICAL

  • TRANSCENDENTAL

    DANIIL TRIFONOV PLAYS LISZT

    Deutsche Grammophon

    479 5529 (2 CDs)

    5/5 stars

    ON MY NEWPIANO

    DANIEL BARENBOIM, PIANO

    Deutsche Grammophon

    479 6724

    3/5 stars

This album is one for keeps.

Liszt is also featured in a new recital recording by Argentina-born conductor-pianist Daniel Barenboim, who plays on a revolutionary new grand piano, created by Chris Maene from Belgium, that features parallel-running rather than crossing strings. The instrument has a good balance of resonance and mellowness, sounding best in the three Sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti and Beethoven's Variations In C Minor.

However, in Chopin's First Ballade, Liszt's Mephisto Waltz No. 1 and Funerailles, Barenboim resorts to banging. This generates an uncharacteristic percussiveness that all but negates the subtlety and musicianship that had come earlier. What a pity.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 15, 2017, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe