Destination Rachmaninov: A Journey in Four Concertos

Hailed as “peerless today as a Rachmaninov interpreter” (The Guardian), pianist Daniil Trifonov has in recent years made milestone recordings of all four of the composer’s piano concertos and the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. Accompanied by Yannick Nézet-Séguin and The Philadelphia Orchestra – an ensemble known for its close, historic ties to Rachmaninov’s music – Trifonov now presents all five works for piano and orchestra in a single album, Destination Rachmaninov.

Released to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth, the set also comprises Trifonov’s transcriptions of the much-loved Vocalise and Silver Sleigh Bells, a bravura arrangement of the opening movement of Rachmaninov’s The Bells, as well as Rachmaninov’s own delightful transcription of three movements from the Partita BWV 1006 by J.S. Bach, originally for solo violin.

The physical product, consisting of 3 CDs and a High-Fidelity Pure Audio Blu-ray disc, includes the debut CD release of an extended version of the Vocalise, while the digital release features the first Dolby Atmos versions of the original Destination Rachmaninov albums (Arrival and Departure) and of the shorter, e-single recording of the Vocalise. The album will be issued by Deutsche Grammophon today, in time to mark the composer’s birthday on 1 April.

Rachmaninov wrote his First Piano Concerto in 1891, when he was just 18. It is, as Trifonov says, a work “full of aspirations and Romantic ideals”. Trifonov performs it here in the composer’s revision from 1917, which retains the original’s openness and optimism. The polyphonic writing of the Second, composed in 1900–01, reflects Rachmaninov’s love of Bach. This work, for Trifonov, “is where idea, form, technique and lyrical inspiration find their mature balance and expression”. The pianist further sees the epic Third Concerto (1909) as a work of “a solemn intimacy” – as “the composer’s inner conversation with himself, and with God”. Dating from 1926, ten years after Rachmaninov had left Russia, the Fourth Concerto expresses how the composer had absorbed the varied, cosmopolitan influences he found in the West: the music of Gershwin and Debussy, the artistic movements of Futurism, Dadaism and Surrealism, and the comic genius of Charlie Chaplin.

The Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini of 1934, meanwhile, proved to be Rachmaninov’s final work for piano and orchestra. This virtuosic set of 24 variations is both tautly constructed and full of creative vitality and expressive intensity. “I think of the Rhapsody,” notes Trifonov, “like a miniature ballet – a dance with Fate over Paganini’s soul.”

Throughout this epic project, the pianist is superbly accompanied by The Philadelphia Orchestra under the direction of its Music Director, Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Rachmaninov himself enjoyed a 30‑year relationship with The Philadelphia Orchestra, with whom he premiered the Rhapsody and Fourth Concerto, and recorded a number of his other compositions as well. Nézet-Séguin and the current Philadelphia players demonstrate the continuity of their Rachmaninov tradition in their string section’s virtuosity and warmth, and the unmistakable timbre of the orchestra’s brass and winds.

The physical edition of Destination Rachmaninov also presents the concertos, Trifonov’s transcriptions of The Silver Sleigh Bells and Vocalise (short version) and Rachmaninov’s Bach transcription on a High-Fidelity Pure Audio Blu-ray disc. In the year in which Deutsche Grammophon celebrates its 125th anniversary, this pioneering step in audio presentation reflects the label’s ongoing commitment to the future of audio.


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