Roughly speaking, the Silver Age hymned in this two-disc survey recalls the early decades of the last century when Russian composers began to embrace the stylistic pluralism of modernity. As Daniil Trifonov pithily comments, the period was a “a cocktail of artistic expressions in agitated interaction”.
With a similar quality dictating the running order here (and a rather elastic definition of the Silver Age’s timeframe) the set’s anchor points are Prokofiev’s blistering and baleful Second Piano Concerto and Scriabin’s sole, Chopin-accented, exercise in the form. Both receive sterling performances from soloist and orchestra. The Prokofiev revels in Trifonov’s clean, considered, acutely employed virtuosity and Gergiev’s ability to whip up a storm from his agile Mariinsky forces – and then let it abate – in an instant that makes for compelling listening to favourably align it with existing benchmark performances on disc. If not quite as immediate, Trifonov’s eloquent championing of the Scriabin concerto pleasingly distracts from its relative lack of inspiration.
The slow-burning, febrile quality of the other substantial piece here, Prokofiev’s Eighth Piano Sonata, is treated to a darkly charismatic reading. It’s as if Trifonov is channelling a silent-screen pianist giving voice to a sequence of tumultuous images, each prompting a wholly spontaneous-sounding commentary that brims with character and colour.
Although relegated to a supporting role, Stravinsky’s scene-stealing contributions include a combustible Firebird Suiterealised with appropriately fiery, fantastical intensity, and a thoroughly delightful account of Three Movements from Petrushka, by turns exhilarating, dislocating and beguiling.
If Trifonov, for all his virtues, fails to persuade that Stravinsky’s Serenade in A is anything other than the rather uninspired and workmanlike triptych it is, he leaves no doubts about Prokofiev’s animated Sarcasms to which he brings a vinegary, dyspeptic tang tartly in tune with the music’s acidic intentions.
Title: Silver Age
Music by: Scriabin, Stravinsky & Prokofiev
Performers: Daniil Trifonov p, Mariinsky Orchestra/Valery Gergiev
Label: Deutsche Grammophon DG 4835331 (2CD)