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Daniil Trifonov - Transcendental / Wall Street Journal review

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For pianists, the 12 "Transcendental Études" by the 19th-century composer Franz Liszt remain among the most perilous compositions in the repertoire, particularly if played in their entirety rather than as isolated recital pieces. Totaling about 65 minutes in length, they are a veritable obstacle course for the performer, with tricky rhythms, hand-stretching chords, cascading or cresting chromatic lines at high-velocity speeds and the like. More significantly, these engrossing études, mainly musical evocations of nature and youthful escapades, require poetic insight as much as virtuoso fireworks.

Deutsche Grammophon has just released "Transcendental" by 25-year-old Daniil Trifonov. His two-disc set of all 23 piano études by Liszt also includes the justly beloved "Concert Études" and the taxing " Paganini Études"-a Lisztian Triple Crown, if you will, from a thoroughbred champion who won the Tchaikovsky and the Rubinstein international piano competitions at age 20. In 2014, when Mr. Trifonov performed all 12 "Transcendental Études" in Carnegie Hall's main auditorium-part of a tour that ultimately encompassed about 25 cities-he was only the fourth pianist do so in that institution's 125-year history.

READ THE FULL Wall Street Journal REVIEW