An eagerly anticipated recital by Daniil Trifonov

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Ricordanza
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An eagerly anticipated recital by Daniil Trifonov

Post by Ricordanza » Sun Mar 26, 2017 5:18 pm

The piano series sponsored by the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society usually includes some perennial favorites. This season, for example, features Jeremy Denk and Emanuel Ax. Occasionally, the series includes a new star in the classical music world. Such a star is the Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov, winner of both the Tchaikovsky and Rubinstein competitions, and his sold-out recital on Friday evening, March 24, was one of the eagerly awaited events of the season. My impressions were mixed, as explained below, but I hope to hear this pianist again.

The first half of the program was comprised of three of Robert Schumann’s timeless contributions to the piano literature. Trifonov began the evening with Kinderszenen (“Scenes from Childhood”), the well-known and frequently performed collection of 13 pieces with such titles as “A Curious Story,” “Dreaming,” and “Knight of the Hobbyhorse.” Trifonov’s playing, for the most part, captured the charm and delight of these pieces. But some of the slower sections were played in an exceedingly deliberate manner, hardly moving forward at all. At times, the flow of these slower pieces was lost.

I noticed a similar issue with his performance of Kreisleriana, a set of eight pieces inspired by the writings of E.T.A. Hoffman. Trifonov’s playing was, at times, dramatic and compelling, but the slow sections moved at a glacial pace. Yes, I know that Schumann’s direction for two of the segments, sehr langsam, means very slowly. But there is a forward momentum that’s a key component in every Schumann work, even the slow sections, and my impression is that the momentum was missing at times.

Lack of momentum is never an issue with the Toccata, which Trifonov presented in between the two other Schumann works. Indeed, the work is defined by its unforgiving momentum, driving the music and the pianist with the “chops” to play it in furious fashion until the last couple of bars. And there’s no question that Trifonov has the chops to not only play this work, but to transcend the enormous technical demands and communicate its appealing musical content.

Inspired by Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, Dmitri Shostakovich wrote a set of 24 Preludes and Fugues for the keyboard in each of the major and minor keys. Trifonov offered five of these pairs (Nos. 4, 7, 2, 5 and 24, in that order) and made a persuasive case for these pieces. Harmonically a little edgy, they are still essentially tonal works and vary significantly in their mood and character. Number 24 is particularly rich and majestic. Somehow, I had never had the opportunity to hear any of these works, and I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction.

Finally, Trifonov presented a tour de force of the 20th Century piano repertoire, Igor Stravinsky’s Three Movements from Petrushka. He negotiated the ever changing rhythms and jarring, percussive music with great flair. But what really stood out for me was the clarity he achieved in this thicket of notes, illuminating this masterpiece of musical imagination.

After a standing ovation by this knowledgeable audience, Trifonov offered one superb encore, Medtner’s Fairy Tale, Op. 26, No. 3.

arepo
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Joined: Thu May 07, 2009 6:02 pm

Re: An eagerly anticipated recital by Daniil Trifonov

Post by arepo » Thu Apr 06, 2017 7:58 am

Henry..

+Sorry for the delayed response. Your review, as always was beautifully written and quite accurate.

Trifinov is a remarkable talent and so accomplished at this point, I wonder where he'll be a decade from now. A real treat to hear him playing the Schumann and Shostakovich gems.

Hope to see you at the Ax recital.
cliftwood

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