Daniil Trifonov, pianist and composer

Have you been to a concert somewhere in the world recently? Share your thoughts with us about the performance, the more details the better!

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Daniil Trifonov, pianist and composer

Post by Ricordanza » Sun Nov 19, 2017 6:33 pm

Composer-pianists—virtuoso pianists who compose works to showcase their own performance skills—were a common sight in 19th and early 20th Century concert halls. Today, they are a rarity. Until recently, the list of prominent composer-pianists stopped at one: Marc-André Hamelin. Now we can add the Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov to that list. On Wednesday evening, November 15, I had the opportunity to hear Trifonov perform his own Piano Concerto with conductor Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra at Carnegie Hall.

It is difficult (for me, at least) to give a complete picture of a new work on first hearing, especially a complex, three-movement work like this one. But I’ll try to offer some impressions.

First, in terms of musical style, Trifonov paints with a largely tonal palette. Clearly, his approach shows the influence of Rachmaninoff, Scriabin and Prokofiev.

The first movement includes an extensive collection of musical ideas—perhaps too many. While many of these ideas were fascinating, and the interplay of piano and orchestra was skillful and creative, this movement seemed to lack a cohesive structure. The second and third movements were more successful for this listener. Essentially, instead of pouring out one musical idea after another, Trifonov seemed content to develop—very effectively—a common approach for each movement: a lyrical second movement and a percussive and biting third movement.

While there are brilliant solo passages throughout the concerto, the only true cadenza is found in the third movement.

And what can I say about his performance? I heard Trifonov in recital this March, so it was no surprise to me that his playing is nothing short of dazzling.

The evening began with a dramatic performance of Richard Strauss’ early tone poem, Don Juan. At times, the music reminded me of a rich and thick soup, sometimes a little too thick. Was it the music, or the orchestra? Hard to say. Overall, it was a satisfying performance by this world-class orchestra, but I could have asked for a bit more clarity.

No such complaints for the orchestra’s performance of Prokofiev’s Sixth Symphony. While his Fifth Symphony is more famous (and found more favor with the Soviet authorities), the Sixth is in some ways more compelling in its portrayal of the horrors of war. Under Gergiev’s direction, the orchestra produced a brilliant rendition of this jarring and emotional work.

An interesting sidelight—Gergiev is the only conductor I’ve seen of a full-size orchestra who does not stand on a podium. I wonder why? Evidently, the musicians can see him, for there was not the slightest lack of precision in their performance.

After a loud standing ovation, the audience was rewarded with a superbly played encore—the final two sections of Stravinsky’s The Firebird.

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Re: Daniil Trifonov, pianist and composer

Post by Belle » Sun Nov 19, 2017 10:21 pm

What an excellent appraisal of the evening's music; how lucky you were to be at such a wonderful performance!! No doubt DT is a phenomenal artist and the impulse to compose - when there is already a very crowded schedule - mystifies me. He must never sleep!!

It's to be expected that an early composition, such as the one you describe, clearly reveals its influences. What I even wonder, though, is whether the piano concerto as a genre isn't already a spent force.

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Re: Daniil Trifonov, pianist and composer

Post by diegobueno » Thu Jan 11, 2018 10:40 am

Trifanov's concerto is available to listen to on Youtube. At one listening I have to say I agree with Ricordanza's assessment of the work. This is the work of a pianist who's spent many hours practicing Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev concertos, and that's the sound he has in his head, and that's what his concerto sounds like. The orchestration is effective and colorful, though.

I'll bet Lance would really go for this piece.

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