Piano Concerto No.3 in D minor, Op.30
Symphonic Dances, Op.45
Daniil Trifonov (piano)
New York Philharmonic
Reviewed by: Elizabeth Barnette
Reviewed: 24 November, 2015
Venue: David Geffen Hall, Lincoln Center, New York City
Rachmaninoff: A Philharmonic Festival (now coming to its end) features Daniil Trifonov playing three of the composer’s piano concertos, as well as Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, over three programs (the first two were respectively conducted by Cristian Măcelaru and Neeme Järvi). In addition, Trifonov has participated in a chamber concert and a vocal recital, a huge amount of responsibility to rest on the shoulders of someone only 24 years old. But since 2011, having won the Rubinstein and Tchaikovsky competitions, Trifonov has been impressing with his artistry and virtuosity, and he certainly met expectations in the D-minor Concerto.
Trifonov conjured up a world of detached nostalgia, sitting almost motionless at the instrument during the simple haunting melody that begins the piece, and he initially took on the role of an accompanist to the orchestra’s first statement. Unfortunately the horns were sitting in a ‘hot’ spot and the extended first solo – played beautifully and with vibrato, in true Russian style – overpowered both the piano and the rest of the orchestra. But this was the only flaw.
Trifonov soon took command, introducing an ebb and flow that perfectly matched the music’s emotional content. Ludovic Morlot tracked Trifonov’s tempo changes well and proved to be a true partner. The first-movement cadenza (one of two that Rachmaninov wrote) was dispatched not only with virtuosity and almost turned into a mini drama, while the ensuing section was a masterpiece of lyricism. In the Adagio this mood was expanded further to hint at impressionistic textures, building up to a powerful climax. And although taking the Finale at breakneck speed, Trifonov never sounded rushed or technically challenged, but seemed to virtually become one with the piano, personifying the music. As an encore Trifonov offered one of Medtner’s numerous Skazki (Fairy Tales).
Following such powerful music-making, the Symphonic Dances (Rachmaninov’s swansong) was somewhat anti-climactic, perhaps due to Morlot on his own not generating the same level of excitement. He led a solid account, well-controlled in every respect (except for the overpowering horns again), but something was missing: the music just did not dance. The opening movement was martial and heavy, and the last felt long. The best moments came in the central waltz, where Morlot elicited gorgeous playing from the strings.