Los Angeles Music Preview: DANIIL TRIFONOV IN RECITAL (Disney Hall)

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by Tony Frankel on February 23, 2016

in Theater-Los Angeles


All it took was one performance from Daniil Trifonov (dan-EEL TREE-fon-ov) to resoundingly validate for me why he is the current Big Thing of the piano world. The Liszt-like master’s rendition of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2 at the Hollywood Bowl with the Los Angeles Philharmonic (followed by a jaw-dropping encore of Stravinsky’s Firebird for piano) convinced me that this is a pianist for the ages. And as if I needed more validation, he was equally astounding setting fire to the ivories performing Rachmaninov’s First Piano Concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra last year. And it was the young master who kept me rapt during a recital with violinist Gidon Kremer at Disney Hall. Combining flawless skill with a fierce tenderness, he is fascinating to watch live. Now, finally, Trifonov makes his Disney Hall solo recital debut this Friday, February 26, as part of LA Phil’s Colburn Celebrity Series. This is one of the most in-demand pianists worldwide, so you would be wise to catch him when you can.

When I saw him at the Bowl, the thin Russian, who turns 25 in March, hunched over the keys, pursed his lips, scrunched his face, and closed his eyes tight as if he were reliving some gloriously bittersweet and lovely memory. Sometimes, his face appeared to be grimacing with passionate intent, a physical determination that caused his hair to be matted with sweat. The combination of possessed frenzy and ardent lovemaking on view belied his unswervingly amazing technique. Each note could be easily identified, yet they cascaded smoothly like a pulsating waterfall. The combination of strength and tenderness more than validated why Trifonov won medals at three of the most prestigious competitions in the music world: the Chopin Competition in Warsaw (Third Prize), the Rubinstein Competition in Tel Aviv (First Prize) and the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow (First Prize and Grand Prix).

Rachmaninov is a natural fit for Trifonov, who is also a composer. His Rachmaniana Suite for piano solo is part of his newly released CD entitled Rachmaninov Variations, which also has Variations on Themes of Chopin (YouTube below) and Corelli. (Trifonov will be signing CDs after his recital). And his 2013 Carnegie Recital, also on CD, has become the stuff of legends. But another thing to appreciate is that he isn’t performing pieces at Disney Hall to hawk his CDs. While I love Scriabin, Liszt, and Medtner form his discs, we get Schubert’s Sonata No. 18 in G Major, D. 894 and two Brahms: Chaconne in D minor for the Left Hand (After Bach’s Partita for Solo Violin, BWV 1004) and Variations on a Theme by Paganini, Op. 35 (Book 1). If the latter reminds you of the other well-known Paganini Variations (also on CD), fear not;  Rachmaninov will be represented in the second half with the monumental Sonata No. 1 in D minor, Op. 28. That makes this program almost 105 minutes of music, not including breaks and encore! An unforgettable evening awaits.

Daniil Trifonov, piano
Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave
Friday, February 26, 2016 at 8:00
for tickets, call 323.850.2000 or visit LA Phil

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