Showing posts with label Daniil Trifonov. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Daniil Trifonov. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Trifonov in rehearsal

The Philharmonia Orchestra is playing proud host to the pianist Daniil Trifonov at the moment. He's playing all the Rachmaninov concertos. Last week I was lucky enough to catch the concert that included both No.4 and the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. The Observer's critic didn't mince her words: "He is, no other word, a phenomenon." Hear hear.

The orchestra has been sharing a video clip of the rehearsal for the 'Rach Pag', and it was such astonishing playing that really you have to see it too - it's here.

The Trif is back on Thursday: beg, borrow or steal a ticket.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Blown away by Chopin in Istanbul

Here's one of my talks from Istanbul. They're now all on Youtube. This one was dedicated to the topic of the young Chopin and preceded a mesmerising account of the E minor Piano Concerto by Daniil Trifonov, no less. If any of us hadn't been blown away by the weather, he blew away anything that remained. Enjoy.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Chopin around

It's the sort of documentary I didn't think they'd allow any more: a fabulously filmed celebration of a genuinely special artist, focusing on its subject, not some "celebrity" presenter, and with plenty of music. There's a certain poetic justice to the fact that Christopher Nupen, who captured the likes of Jacqueline du Pré and Daniel Barenboim on film in the 1960s, is still around to document the talent of Daniil Trifonov. This mesmerising documentary captures the poetic fire of the young Russian pianist, who talks about "boiling" himself in the music. The film went out the other day on BBC4 and can be watched on the iPlayer for 28 days thereafter. Today is Chopin's birthday and one could do worse than celebrate by watching it. The whole thing is here.

Just one thing: the clips in the film of Trifonov's own Piano Concerto seem absolutely wonderful. I think we ought to have the whole thing as an adjunct - it is a substantial work that sounds well worth hearing.

Trifonov, though, has now gone off sick, having to drop out of a tour with the Kremerata Baltica. The search for a replacement artist for the remaining performances proved so dispiriting, according to Norman Lebrecht, that Kremer appears to have decided to cancel the rest of the tour and take a well-earned rest. In an open letter, Kremer blamed recalcitrant promoters who he says refused to accept any of his suggestions for a pianist who could take over the task of playing both the Chopin concerti on a substantial tour at short notice.

One artist they allegedly refused was Yulianna Avdeeva, the Russian pianist who took first prize at the Chopin Competition at which Trifonov himself pulled in third. Highly recommended by many musicians including Krystian Zimerman and Martha Argerich. A superb artist who by rights should be far too busy to be free to step in to such a thing. Here is what they're missing.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Trifonov scales the Eiger

Well, the north face of the piano repertoire: Liszt's complete Transcendental Etudes, live in concert. I'm still reeling. Here's my review for The Arts Desk. (Do take out a subscription: it's well worth it, top-notch reviewing for the price of one coffee per month!)

Monday, September 29, 2014


Tomorrow night Daniil Trifonov is making his Royal Festival Hall recital debut - and if you're in London or within easyish reach of it, you need to get there. 

His programme is:

Johann Sebastian Bach: Fantasia and Fugue in G minor, BWV.542 arr. Liszt for piano
Ludwig Van Beethoven: Sonata in C minor, Op.111
Franz Liszt: 12 Etudes d'exécution transcendante, S.139

Now, it has been drawn to my attention that this concert hasn't sold terrifically well, and this, dear concert-goers, seems absurd. What's the matter? Have you already committed yourselves to another gig - perhaps Behzod Abduraimov's piano recital at the Wigmore Hall (in which case we forgive you, because a clash of this magnitude isn't your fault and should be preventable in an ideal pianophile's world). Or do you perhaps consider that Liszt's complete set of 12 Transcendental Etudes is a bit much, a bit niche or a bit too, well, Liszty? 

Is admitting to enjoying Liszt, perhaps, still a little like the guilty pleasure of laughing at the opera? Have you ever really heard these things? If they are played by a pianist who knows how to put them over as the 11-dimensional masterpieces they are - and to do so, he/she needs a totally transcendental technique, as the composer suggests - then they can shine out among the greatest piano works of the 19th century. 

Here is No.11, the desperately sexy Harmonies du soir, played by one of the Lisztians I love the most, Louis Kentner:

Daniil is 23 and one of the most fascinating artists I've had the pleasure of hearing and meeting. (Here's my impression of his QEH recital in 2012 and you can read my recent interview with him in Pianist magazine - order the back issue here.) He reminds me of a lion cub with big paws: already an astounding creature, but one who visibly has the potential to grow and grow and keep on growing. Last time I looked forward to a 23-year-old pianist's RFH recital so much, it was 1980 and the artist in question was Krystian Zimerman. (I was 14.)

Book here. Do it now. And remember, at the concert: Try Phone Off.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Ructions at the Rubinstein?

Trifonov: Fazioli fan
Seems that some piano wars are afoot at the Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Competition in Tel Aviv. Apparently a startling five out of the six finalists have chosen to play their concertos on a Fazioli piano, rather than the more usual Steinway.

We understand that the competition has the use of a Fazioli concert grand that Daniil Trifonov - winner of the last Rubinstein Competition - selected himself. (Correction: turns out it is not the same one he recently used in London. Angela Hewitt is playing that one tonight, right here...) Meanwhile, we hear that Francesco Piemontesi is also playing a Fazioli for his Wigmore Hall recital today.

Steinway has dominated the piano scene for such a long time that it's most intriguing to find its dominance being challenged to this extent by a new generation of young pianists.

But do remember one thing: it ain't what you've got, it's what you do with it...

The competition is live-streaming its finals. First lot went yesterday, second lot later today.

The finalists are:
Antonii Baryshevskyi (Ukraine)
Seong Jin Cho (South Korea)
Leonardo Colafelice (Italy)
Steven Lin (US)
Maria Mazo (Russia)
Andrejs Osokins (Latvia)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Day of the Trifonov

I spent a fascinating hour yesterday afternoon interviewing Daniil Trifonov - it's a cover feature for PIANIST magazine and will be out in a few months' time. Backstage at the Barbican before his concert with the LSO, I had, in close up, the same impression that occurred when listening to him at the Southbank a little over a year ago: there's something in this 23-year-old Russian that seems lit from within. He talks about (among other things) total focus, composing - he is about to premiere his own half-hour piano concerto in Cleveland - and cause and effect, quasi-storytelling, in music. Watch this space for an alert to the feature as soon as it's out.

But all this, nonetheless, still wasn't half as astonishing as what he told us through Chopin's Second Piano Concerto in the concert. He makes it imperative that you listen to every note: each becomes as essential a part of the whole as every word is in, for instance, a Chekhov play. When phrases are repeated - e.g., that wonderful bouncy mazurka-like episode in the last movement - he never plays them the same way twice. The spiderweb delicacy of the second movement arabesques stopped the heart with their beauty, but there's power aplenty when he needs it - one senses no limits to this range - and his tone is an Aladdin's cave of glowing, kaleidoscopic colour. He sounds like nobody else; yet leaves you wondering why not everyone else plays like this. At the end the lady next to me turned round and remarked, "Maybe there really is a God."

He'll give his first Royal Festival Hall recital on 30 September and the programme will feature Bach - exactly which Bach he hasn't yet decided - followed by Beethoven's Sonata Op.111 and the small matter of the 12 Liszt Transcendental Etudes in the second half. Book here. 

In the meantime, here is a fascinating interview with him that pitched up on Youtube - it's from Zsolt Bognár's series Living the Classical Life. Stand by for...why it's a good idea to practise underwater.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Proms 2013: Hear 7 Wagner Operas for £5 Each

You'll need sandiwches, water, strong shoes and even stronger legs - those operas are loooong - but where else in the world can you go to the complete Ring cycle conducted by Daniel Barenboim and starring Nina Stemme, plus Tristan und Isolde, Tannhauser and Parsifal, each with major Wagnerian superstars at the helm, and stand just a few metres from the performers, and pay only £5 a time? Yes, the Proms are back and this is one great whopper of a Wagner anniversary season.

There's some Verdi - though no complete operas (apparently this is down to it's-just-how-things-turned-out, rather than any Wagner-is-best conspiracy, before you ask). And a more than fair pop at Britten, including Billy Budd from Glyndebourne. Fans of Granville Bantock, Walton, Rubbra, George Lloyd and Tippett could also be quite happy with this year's line-up.

The glass ceiling is shattering nicely as Marin Alsop takes the helm for the Last Night, becoming the first woman ever to conduct it. Better late than never, and she is a brilliant choice for the task.

Guest artists on the Last Night include Joyce DiDonato and Nigel Kennedy. Nige will be appearing earlier in the season too, playing the good old Four Seasons with his own Orchestra of Life plus the Palestine Strings, which consists of young players from the Edward Said National Conservatories of Music. Lots of piano treats as well - soloists to hear include Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, the terrific duo of Noriko Ogawa and Kathryn Stott, Daniil Trifonov in the rarely-heard Glazunov Piano Concerto No.2 and Imogen Cooper and Paul Lewis playing Schubert's Grand Duo for piano duet in a late-night Prom.

There's one thing, though, that sent me into meltdown. Leafing through the listings, one turns to 6 August and out leap the words KORNGOLD: SYMPHONY IN F SHARP. I've waited 30 years for this. Erich Wolfgang Korngold's one and only full-blown symphony is coming to the Proms at long, long last. It is being performed by the BBC Philharmonic under John Stogårds. And guess what? I'm supposed to be away on holiday on 6 August. If that isn't the Law of Sod, then what is?

Meanwhile we're promised more TV coverage of the Proms than ever before, and plenty of stuff online, and the invaluable iPlayer to help with catching up. But really, there's no substitute for being there. If you've never been, get a taste of it in the launch film above. Book your tickets now.

Full listings here.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


Today The Guardian has run Charlotte Higgins's interview with Martin Roscoe, who talks in depth about what really happened when he tried to blow the whistle about Layfield.

But also, they report that another Chet's/RNCM teacher, violinist Wen Zhou Li, has been "arrested on suspicion of sex offences".

Elsewhere, there is slightly better news.

While we were away last week, Harriet Harman intervened to stop Newcastle Council's plans to cut its arts budget by 100%.

Also, education secretary Michael Gove was forced to drop his noxious EBacc project and is now looking instead at a reformed version of GCSEs with an eight-subject base that may even include music. Triumph is scented over at the brilliant and tireless ISM, but the fight won't be over yet.

And much better news: Benjamin Grosvenor has been nominated for The Times Breakthrough Award at the South Bank Sky Arts Awards. Over the Pond, David Patrick Stearns has been listening to the star wars of the 20-something new generation pianists and lets us know that Trifonov's Carnegie Hall debut recital last week was sold out. But he picks Benjamin as the tip-top "artistic space alien": "Never have I not heard him boldly re-imagining the music he plays in ways that made complete sense, had conviction right down to the smallest detail but was completely unlike anything I’ve previously heard. How such depth of brilliance could be housed by somebody so young is enough to make you believe that reincarnation can come with accumulated wisdom." 

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Trifonov signs with DG

I interrupt my Nile-side G&T after a day of basking by the pool intensive work on my novel to bring you the news that Daniil Trifonov, 21-year-old winner of the Tchaikovsky Competition and general piano marvel of the best kind, has been signed by DG.

Yes! They got him. Whatever were they waiting for? Recording contracts are few and far between, these days, and it's good to see a good one going to someone who really deserves it.

His first album for the Yellow Label is to be recorded TODAY: ie, it's his Carnegie Hall debut recital. The programme is the same one he performed in London in early December: the Scriabin Sonata No.2, the Liszt B minor Sonata and the Chopin 24 Preludes. Hopefully there will be no intrusive of the Fon by the Phone at the climax of the Liszt, though - unlike that memorable evening at the QEH. So if you're in NY and going to hear him, please remember: Trifonov...Try.Phone.Off.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Trifonov plays 'Widmung'

Here's a little something to remind us what it's all about: Daniil Trifonov, live at the Wigmore Hall in 2011, playing Liszt's transcription of Schumann's 'Widmung' ('Dedication').

Friday, December 14, 2012

Friday Historical: film of Alfred Cortot playing Chopin

What can one add to that?

Other than this: hearing Daniil Trifonov playing Prokofiev's Second Piano Concerto last night at the RFH left me with no doubt whatsoever that the art of great pianism is still alive and well in the 21st century.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The future's Liam Scarlett. And it's also Daniil Trifonov

I went along to Covent Garden to meet Liam Scarlett, at 26 the hottest new choreographic property in town. He's decided to give up his dancing career - which was going jolly well - to concentrate full time on choreography and Kevin O'Hare has created a new post of Artist in Residence at the Royal Ballet especially for him. My piece about him is in today's Independent.

It's fairly extraordinary interviewing ballet people after being used to musicians for so long. One doesn't like to generalise, of course, but first of all, they are so young...and so thin...and so lovely. They are poetic, intuitive, extremely bright and astoundingly determined, even driven - after all, it's a short career. Their vocation is the life they live - perhaps even more so than musicians. You know the business about a singer being his/her own instrument? With dance, it's like that, but it isn't a voice box; it's everything.

Meanwhile, it's a landmark day for me in a way I'd prefer to forget, really, but since I can't, I'm having a night off all my habitual high cultcha and  we're going to see Skyfall at the IMAX. As my own present to all of you - for to give is better than to receive - here is Daniil Trifonov playing the Chopin Polonaise-Fantasie at the 2010 Chopin Competition. I came away from his QEH recital last week thinking "Someone should book this boy to play Prokofiev 2, soon - it'll be his piece to a T." And guess what? He's playing it on Thursday at the RFH with the Philharmonia and Lorin Maazel.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Trifonov: Try Phone Off.

One for the appropriate names department at the QEH last night. Daniil Trifonov, the 21-year-old Russian whizz-kid who has scooped top prize at both the Tchaikovsky and Rubinstein competitions and third in the Chopin, came to London for his South Bank recital debut, which duly blew our socks off. But music is as much about silence as about sound. In that great silence at the ultimate climax of the Liszt B minor Sonata, there it was, wouldn't you know it...the mobile going off.

And not off. It went on and on. The admirable TryPhoneOff wasn't remotely fazed, carrying on with aplomb as if nothing had happened. But for the rest of us, who had been following the narrative thread on the edge of our seats - for this Liszt was a fantastical Bulgakovesque page-turner - the timing could scarcely have been worse. It does scupper the experience to a large degree and there is no excuse except carelessness and, I'm afraid, plain old human stupidity. It's time for concert halls to introduce signal blockers at best, or bouncers in place of ushers at worst. Possibly both. Otherwise it can only be a matter of time before an audience group gets together to form a vigilante clique, perhaps with whips.

OK, so much for the phone. What of the Fon? Friends, please welcome a very major talent. He may be just 21, but Trifonov somehow makes me think of a taller, thinner, younger, embryonic kind of Sokolov-to-be. He's an old-school Russian, with that sense of colour and drama - as if the Liszt B minor Sonata and the Chopin Preludes are great narratives like The Master and Margarita or Anna Karenina itself: mighty struggles between good and evil, with, in the case of the Chopin, an apocalyptic conclusion balanced earlier by perfect songs-without-words and a deep sensitivity to the evanescence of absolute beauty. There's that Chaliapin-like phrasing, the breath strongest at the start of the phrase; there's an identification with the Russian sense of vastness, and a pride in it. He takes risks - as much with the softness he can evoke as with the juggernauts of octaves he can unleash when required. The Scriabin Sonata No.2 came out in three-dimensional textures, lit by a stained-glass window of synaesthetic luminous legato. There's an energy that crackles around him from the minute he steps on stage - as if he functions at a higher vibration level than most people.

The programme was cleverly chosen to show off his strength in fantastical, mercurial imagination; and in the encores he romped home to Russian territory with a Medtner Fairy Tale, a mind-busting transcription of the Infernal Dance from the Firebird by Stravinsky - something I've never heard on the piano before and don't anticipate hearing again anytime soon, given its challenges - and a little calm-down-dears extra piece to close that [UPDATE] has turned out to be a little something of his own.

Let's hope that Trifonov can sustain, guard and further develop his glorious pianism and sterling musicianship without the undoubted stardom he faces wreaking materialistic havoc. I'm an optimist in this case, and I think he can make it.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Meet Daniil Trifonov

Happy Monday, dear readers. We've got builders in from today (bathroom), my back is playing up and I'm ploughing through some deadlines, so blogsperation is flagging slightly. But I'm happy to tell you that I'll be writing a new monthly Letter from London for the Istanbul-based music magazine Andante, starting from its October issue. In the meantime I'm following one of the most fascinating musical trails I've yet discovered, if and when I can think straight...but here's some nice music to entertain you while I can't.

This is Daniil Trifonov, winner of the Tchaikovsky Competition's piano prize, a prizewinner at the Chopin Competition and seen here at the Arthur Rubinstein Competition earlier this year. He's been a very busy boy and I've just heard his new CD of Chopin, recorded before the Tchaikovsky win; it is jolly impressive. But this, as you'll see and hear, is Liszt. Trifonov will be coming to London in the autumn to take part in Gergiev's concert with the LSO featuring concertos with the Tchaikovsky Competition winners, so it looks as if we'll be hearing a lot more of him... Enjoy this spirited, lit-from-within performance.