In that venue a couple of days later, another Russian — or, rather, a Soviet-born Armenian — the pianist Sergei Babayan, Trifonov’s teacher at the Cleveland Institute of Music, proved himself a member of that supreme class of players.
His programme was the not so uncommon ploy of an all-Chopin evening, but the items fell into an interesting succession. He structured the first half around two polonaises, one of them the magnificent A flat Polonaise-Fantaisie, Op 61. Three waltzes were entwined, along with Impromptu No 1 in A flat, an A flat Prelude and the Barcarolle.
Key connections were palpable, and all the more so in the second half’s unfolding of 18 mazurkas and a waltz. Babayan’s playing was bristlingly alive, authoritative yet ever surprising, his effortless technical mastery never obtruding as an end in itself.
It was a pity, though, that he did not leave proper pauses between the pieces (being reluctant, I assume, to be stopped by applause), for the second half tended to blur into one super-mazurka, with an inner tonal coherence, and it was hard to register the difference between a brief dance and the extended ones. But this was a fundamentally superb recital, capped by the curiously satisfying encore of Rameau’s Le Rappel des oiseaux.
published by Paul Driver in the UK Sunday Times on 30 June 2019