Daniil Trifonov at Carnegie Hall – Scriabin, Liszt & Chopin

Piano Sonata No.2 in G sharp minor, Op.19 (Sonata-fantasy)
Piano Sonata in B minor
24 Preludes, Op.28

Daniil Trifonov (piano)

Reviewed by: Lewis M. Smoley

Reviewed: 5 February, 2013
Venue: Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall, New York City

Daniil Trifonov. Photograph: www.intermusica.co.ukFew young pianists have such impressive insight, daring manner of expression, and dazzling technical skills as Russian-born Daniil Trifonov. What makes 21-year-old Trifonov special is how deeply and perceptively he brings out the essential nature of each work he performs. In each piece he played – particularly the Liszt – one sensed that he virtually lived the music; yet he does not attempt to overwhelm listeners with exaggerations or flashy displays of technique.

Scriabin’s Sonata-fantasy was an interesting choice to begin the program, since it shows the influence of both Chopin and Liszt. Of its two movements the second combines elements of slow movement, scherzo and finale. From the outset, Trifonov’s sensitive, delicate expressivity was apparent. He gently caressed the keys or glided sinuously over them building to fervent eruptions of emotion. Pianissimos were like gossamer, yet when the music became more intense a demonic aspect of the pianist’s character emerged driving the music forward with raging torrents of figuration.

The highlight of the evening was a remarkable performance of Liszt’s B minor Piano Sonata. All of its unnerving contrasts emerged from deep within Trifonov’s soul, attacking the piano with wild fury one moment and then hovering over it as he gently stroked the keys to elicit tender sentiments from calmer passages: a deeply personal reading that combined savageness and serenity in a transcendent battle for the transfiguration of the soul.

In Chopin’s 24 Preludes Trifonov displayed his gifts for dreamy lyricism, unforced dexterity, and manic fervor. The ‘Raindrop’ Prelude glimmered with a soft sheen and the final piece was forcefully driven home with raging fury, the three final low Ds hammered out with terrifying power. Trifonov offered three encores, a playful reading of the second of Medtner’s Opus 26 Fairy Tales, then a stylish rendition of Rachmaninov’s arrangement of the ‘Gavotte’ from J. S. Bach’s E major Partita for violin, and finally Guido Agosti’s transcription of ‘Infernal Dance’ from Stravinsky’s The Firebird, Trifonov flailing the piano’s keys with glissandos and ravaging us with brutal rhythmic savagery and astounding ferocity. This recital was recorded by Deutsche Grammophon.

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