Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Real Deal on the Piano

This week I went to a mid-week concert at Kennedy Center to see and hear the latest piano sensation, Daniil Trifonov. He's a Russian pianist in his mid-20s who has taken the world by storm. I first read about him only a month or two ago when he performed with the New York Philharmonic. We are lucky that major classical performers and orchestras often set up their tours to stop here, if only for a night, in between major stops like New York and Chicago.

My companion rightly observed that he abjured the usual Chopin and Beethoven in favor of a first half entirely of Schumann, followed by Shostakovich etudes and fugues and then three selections from Stravinsky's Petrouchka. The Schumann was a good starting point because it showed his capabilities in playing slow, romantic passages and then in a toccata, furious and fast emphatic traversal of the keys.

The Shostakovich was varied -- seven parts of Opus 87 -- and challenging, to the listener as well as the pianist. Again, he seemed to be in total command. His stage presence was perfect, clad in tails in which he actually look comfortable. He would come out, sit down, immediately begin to play, and then stand for the inevitable strong applause, and walk off. He would come back and resume promptly.

I enjoyed the Stravinsky the most, perhaps because I love the Petrouchka music, ever since I first saw Fokine's magnificent dance performed years ago by the Joffrey in New York. It is both warm and exciting. Reviews a day later accepted that he was outstanding and made small criticisms of some tempi and other minor points. Trifonov has already played with what seems to be an exhaustive list of the world's top orchestras and conductors. He is only likely to get better but he is already at an extremely high level.

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