Stories » Yes, we need yet another Rachmaninoff recording and Daniil Trifonov's is splendid / The New York Times

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Yes, we need yet another Rachmaninoff recording and Daniil Trifonov's is splendid / The New York Times

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New accounts of standard works, even those covered by dozens of classic recordings, can still enliven classical music. The standard repertory in classical music is often standard for good reason: Great works are gifts that keep on giving with repeated hearings.

But what about repeated recordings? It's one thing to hear young pianists take on Rachmaninoff's mighty Third Piano Concerto in concert, with its in-the-moment excitement. But do they really need to record it?

After all, the market is saturated with several dozen recordings. I grew up with Van Cliburn's classic live one from Carnegie Hall, with Kirill Kondrashin conducting the Symphony of the Air, shortly after Cliburn had become an overnight superstar after winning the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow.

Just three years later, Byron Janis, another young American, recorded the concerto with Antal Dorati and the London Symphony Orchestra, a performance some Rachmaninoff devotees consider even better. And the exhilarating, exhausting discography piled up, with spectacular older accounts by of Horowitz, Kapell, Argerich and others, and more recent ones by Leif Ove Andsnes and Evgeny Kissin. And don't forget Rachmaninoff's own recording!

This overload did not stop the young Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov from newly recording the piece with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Yannick Nézet-Séguin. That release, on Deutsche Grammophon, completes Mr. Trifonov's two-album survey of the four Rachmaninoff concertos.

And it's splendid. His white-hot virtuosity is tempered by coolheaded thinking and lyrical sensitivity. Passages of teeming intensity are rendered with wondrous clarity and lightness. Yet, when appropriate, Mr. Trifonov shapes phrases and colors chords with milky richness. The third movement is crackling delight.

The recording offers proof that new takes on standard repertory works - if not as essential as recordings of works by living composers or of overlooked scores from the past - can enrich and enliven the art form. It's empowering for performers and audiences alike to have recordings of these scores by artists we can hear today. In the flush of hearing Mr. Trifonov, you may well think: Who needs Horowitz?

Here are some other recent recordings of standard fare that merit attention and add to our understanding of the classics.