Daniil Trifonov in London

Posted by: bennevis

Daniil Trifonov in London - 12/05/12 07:24 AM

The 2011 Tchaikovsky Competition winner's debut in the International Piano Series at the South Bank in London was obviously eagerly awaited, as the Queen Elizabeth Hall was packed to the rafters for last night's concert.

This is the first time I've heard him live, and he didn't disappoint. But what surprised me most was his propensity to withdraw into half-lights as well as the expected brilliance. Indeed, he almost reminds me of the young Zimerman in this respect when he plays long stretches between ppp and pp with minimal rubato.

He started with Scriabin's Sonata No.2, which gave him ample opportunity to display those aspects of his playing, and followed it with Liszt's B minor Sonata. Right from the start, he made it clear that he was taking no quarter, nor giving any, even if a few split notes occurred. Climaxes were powerful in a typically full-blooded Russian manner, and nothing was taken for granted. He built up the 'slow movement' in impressive fashion, but in the fugue-like start to the Allegro energico, one or two of the staccato notes didn't sound because he tried to play them very sotto voce. The prestissimo octaves near the close were fast (but not quite as fast as I've heard from some others like Argerich and Grosvenor), though he didn't quite have Pletnev's knack of pedaling that ensured that the LH octaves were distinctly heard even at breakneck speed. And unfortunately, some idiot's cell phone rang in the quiet coda, breaking our concentration, but not his.

After the interval, he played Chopin's 24 Preludes, Op.28. His is a contemporary reading, treating Chopin as a classicist; and almost austere in his minimal use of rubato, with the fast and brilliant Preludes highly virtuosic, the gentle ones slow (but not as slow as the likes of Sokolov) and bathed in half-lights. For instance, even the E minor (no.4)'s stretto climax was restrained, miles away from Argerich's impulsive snatching.

He gave us three Russian encores, with Agousti's transcription of Stravinsky's Infernal Dance (The Firebird) rip-roaring in its power and brilliance, and finishing with his own charming little 'Song' (unless he's given it another name....)
Posted by: Copake

Re: Daniil Trifonov in London - 12/05/12 07:35 AM

Trifonov will be playing the same program at Tanglewood in August. I hope to hear him then.
Posted by: bennevis

Re: Daniil Trifonov in London - 12/05/12 11:55 AM

I wonder if he'll be playing on a Fazioli there. He played on the hall's resident Steinway D in London, though it might not have been his preferred choice. It seems only Angela Hewitt gets to play on a Fazioli when she plays in London...

I was also bemused by Trifonov's way of perching on the edge of his bench, often causing it to tilt forward: luckily, it never looked like it would topple grin. And he also occasionally raised himself off the seat when playing hard. Let's hope he's not following in the footsteps of Keith Jarrett....
Posted by: Numerian

Re: Daniil Trifonov in London - 12/05/12 09:41 PM

He seems to prefer Faziolis. It is the only piano he links to on his website, and he doesn't mention he is a Steinway artist. There is no such thing, however, as a Fazioli artist, as Paolo Fazioli does not believe an artist should be restricted to using only one brand of piano. Also, just because Trifonov happens to like a local Fazioli and wants to use it for a recital, there is no certainty he will be allowed to bring it into the hall, even at his own expense. A lot of concert hall managements are very close to Steinway and only buy their instruments from them. They will only go to the trouble of having another instrument "invade" their hall if it is a major, renowned artist who insists (Pollini, for example, is permitted to bring his Fabbrini to his recitals, and it is probably a condition he requires in the contract). Angela Hewitt, Andras Schiff, Garrick Ohlsson and other renowed pianists have been able to get away with this too.

The other concern is the concert hall technicians. They are all trained in doing things the Steinway way, which includes laquering up the hammers. The dealers who carry Kawai, Yamaha or Fazioli - the leading contenders on concert stages to Steinway - may want to think carefully about exposing their instrument to accidental damage.

Finally, Steinway has really stepped up its prep work for its concert hall D's, and there are some spectacular D's on a lot of stages around the world. It may not be worth the trouble for any artist to make the switch unless they are looking for a particular sound (clarity for a Bach performance for example), or a particular action. We are a long way from the old days when Artur Rubinstein would march into Steinway Hall and complain bitterly about the piano he was given the night before at Carnegie Hall, only to be told Steinway wasn't going to do anything about it because Artist X used it a week ago and had no complaints.
Posted by: bennevis

Re: Daniil Trifonov in London - 12/06/12 12:58 PM

I'm still looking forward to the day I hear the Liszt Sonata on a Fazioli....
Posted by: dancarney

Re: Daniil Trifonov in London - 12/06/12 02:46 PM

He played amazingly well when he visited the other week playing Chopin 2. Looked quite tired after his encore:

Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Daniil Trifonov in London - 12/06/12 04:06 PM

Originally Posted By: bennevis


I was also bemused by Trifonov's way of perching on the edge of his bench, often causing it to tilt forward: luckily, it never looked like it would topple grin. And he also occasionally raised himself off the seat when playing hard.
The raising off the seat is pretty common and Ilve seen it with many pianists. As far causing the bench to tilt forward I have doubts about that because one needs a steady and solid support while playing. Are you saying that the rear legs of the bench are actually off the ground? I have seen Trifonov live and on video and never noticed this although he does crouch forward a lot while playing.

Can you find a Youtube video that shows his bench tilting forward?
Posted by: bennevis

Re: Daniil Trifonov in London - 12/07/12 05:16 AM

Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
As far causing the bench to tilt forward I have doubts about that because one needs a steady and solid support while playing. Are you saying that the rear legs of the bench are actually off the ground? I have seen Trifonov live and on video and never noticed this although he does crouch forward a lot while playing.

Can you find a Youtube video that shows his bench tilting forward?


Yes, I was sitting quite close to the stage in my favorite seat in the front stalls, and on several occasions, the rear legs of his bench were off the floor by an inch or two. He leans forwards quite a lot when playing, and I'd guess that some of the time his center of gravity is closer to his feet than to his, er, rear end grin. No doubt piano teachers (and physical therapists) everywhere in the world will throw up their hands in horror...... grin

As for YouTube videos, I don't have time to watch them much but they don't show close-ups of the pianist's bench's legs in any case.
Posted by: bennevis

Re: Daniil Trifonov in London - 12/07/12 08:24 AM

For those able to access it, you can hear Trifonov in a full length (all 1 hr 40 min, including encores...) recital from the International Chopin Festival in Duszniki Zdroj last year, via the BBC Radio 3 website (or later via BBC iPlayer for the next 7 days) www.bbc.co.uk/radio3, click on Programmes and Through The Night for 8/12/12 (i.e. 12/8/12 in USA), starting at 0100 GMT tomorrow morning.