Poetry and pyrotechnics are perfectly combined in Daniil Trifonov’s five-star pianistic triumph.

Transcendental Etudes, Paganini Etudes et al
Daniil Trifonov p
Deutsche Grammophon 4795529 (2CD)

All artists hope that their performances will touch people or strike a chord with them (excuse my pun!) and when it happens, in the way that it seems to have done with this album, it means a lot. – Daniil Trifonov

Liszt’s transcendent new champion

It took Franz Liszt 26 years to produce the final version of his Twelve Studies in Increasing Degree of Difficulty. The earliest version dates from 1826, but the pianist-phenomenon decided that these pieces were not difficult enough. Other pianists could still manage to play them! While these 12 Etudes and the others in this recital were designed to showcase Liszt’s superhuman technique, Liszt the poet is still in evidence.

Recordings have tended to lean towards one or other extreme. Generally, young pianists show off their skill. Older pianists stress the poetry and musicality. Trifonov, a contemporary wünderkind with an old soul, displays the detachment of a colourist, which suits the pieces perfectly. His technique is so polished as to be a mere means to an end, while his refusal to overdo Liszt’s effects pays off. Feux Follets (Wills o’the wisp) is full of light and shade, Ricordanza (Remembrance) is gently inward-looking but never mawkish, while the formidable No 12, Chasse-neige (Snow-plow) graphically suggests a snowstorm without ever barnstorming.

The Six Paganini Studies reveal the breadth of Trifonov’s technique. When he throws himself into the keyboard-wide climaxes of the variations of Paganini’s famous A Minor theme, he stands alongside the greatest thundering virtuosos, yet ensures the music never descends into a wall of noise. This is superlative music making. – Phillip Scott

The Runners Up

Goldberg Variations
Mahan Esfahani hpscd
Deutsche Grammophon 4795929

Feldman · Crumb
Piano Works
Steven Osborne p
Hyperion CDA68108

Complete Piano Works
Bertrand Chamayou p
Erato 2564602681 (2CD)

Organ Symphonies Vol. 5
Joseph Nolan org
Signum SIGCD347