“Rachmaninov’s concertos represent a journey – and a destination,” says Daniil Trifonov in the album notes, a sentiment which is true of virtually every piece of music ever composed. Yet this idea gives the disc its title and the rationale for the many pictures scattered throughout the booklet of the soloist in and around trains. Somehow the use of music from the Piano Concerto No 2 in one of the best-remembered “train” movies of all, Brief Encounter, doesn’t get a mention.
There is a lot of pulling and pushing going on in this concerto as played here, as if conductor and soloist feel the need to underline every expressive point. You first notice this in the arpeggiated opening bars and it continues at key moments. That’s not to cast doubt on the pianism or the orchestral playing; both are dazzlingly assured. The Philadelphia Orchestra has a long association with Rachmaninov’s music. This was the orchestra for which he created his final major works, including the Fourth Piano Concerto, and its grittier, more forward-looking aesthetic elicits a tremendous response from these artists. Interpretatively, this is passionate, exciting and involving.
Rachmaninov created his Bach suite in 1933 to perform on his concert tours. Trifonov uses it as a palate cleanser between the two bigger works and it’s a playful delight and reminder of the destinations the composer visited as a touring virtuoso.