Daniil Trifonov at Carnegie Hall

Piano Sonata No.3, Op.36
Pour le piano
Sarcasms, Op.17
Piano Sonata No.3 in F-minor, Op.5

Daniil Trifonov (piano)

Reviewed by: Susan Stempleski

Reviewed: 3 March, 2022
Venue: Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall, New York City

Daniil Trifonov’s incredible expressivity and artistry were on full display in this dense and demanding program exploring a wide array of moods and textures. 

Although Szymanowski dispensed with the four-movement structure favored by Romantic-era composers, Piano Sonata 3 is divided into four roughly related sections. As he navigated this adventurous score, Trifonov’s playing seemed totally spontaneous. His frenetic, yet thoroughly polished, finger-work in the opening Presto turned gentle and sad as he segued into the tightly packed harmonies of the soulful Adagio; then, after the brief, scherzo-like Assai vivace, he delivered the final fugue’s recapitulations of the Sonata’s opening section with impressive vigor and volume. 

Consistently sensitive and refined, Trifonov shaped the complex technical challenges of Debussy’s Pour le piano into elaborate and enchanting paragraphs. The opening ‘Prélude’ was a bravura display of virtuosity as he effortlessly dispatched the flowing scales, arpeggios, tremolos and glissandos and seamlessly alternated the melody from left hand to right. The ensuing ‘Sarabande’ was played with an extraordinary lightness of touch, and in the propulsive ‘Toccata’ his fingers flew along with splendid fluency and precision.

In Prokofiev’s rough and pummeling Sarcasms, Trifonov gave a dazzling, technically brilliant interpretation of its five aptly titled and highly contrasting movements. He was acerbic and playful in the opening Tempestoso, coyly hesitant in the Allegro rubato, rhythmically forceful in the Allegro precipitato, absolutely frenzied in the Smanioso, grumpy and stomping in the Precipitosissimo. 

After intermission came another youthful work, one that completely contrasted – in both mood and manner – with the Prokofiev: Brahms’s F-minor Sonata. Trifonov gave a finely conceived, well-paced and beautifully controlled account. The opening was masterly and magisterial, the Andante espressivo replete with tenderness and poetic feeling. The mostly tumultuous Scherzo led to a wonderfully calm and poetic Intermezzo. And an exuberant and colorful account of the Finale brought the performance to a satisfying close. No encore was offered, but none was needed.

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