This spring, Gramophone Artist of the Year Daniil Trifonov returns to North America after a string of international triumphs that included his Berlin Philharmonic debut. Playing the same characteristically formidable solo program of Schumann, Stravinsky, and Shostakovich that has already won him raves on both sides of the Atlantic, the young Russian pianist embarks on a six-city North American recital tour (March 24–April 4) culminating with his return to Washington’s Kennedy Center. Next he gives accounts of Mozart’s Ninth Piano Concerto with Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Philadelphia Orchestra (April 7–9), with whom he scored his second Grammy nomination last year. He also reunites with two of his closest collaborators, joining mentor Sergei Babayan for a four-hands recital in Sarasota (March 30) and celebrating the 70th birthday of regular collaborator Gidon Kremer with the release of Preghiera, a new Deutsche Grammophon album on which Trifonov, the master violinist, and cellist Giedrė Dirvanauskaitė reprise the Rachmaninov piano trios with which they recently gave “the performance of a lifetime” (Los Angeles Times) at LA’s Disney Hall.
When Trifonov juxtaposed three works by Schumann – the tender Kinderszenen, virtuosic Op. 7 Toccata, and dramatic tour-de-force Kreisleriana – with selections from Shostakovich’s 24 Preludes and Fugues and Stravinsky’s piano arrangement of Three Movements from Petrushka at Carnegie Hall in December, the New York Times admired the way “the brilliant and poetic components of his artistry found ideal balance in his magnificent performance.” Similarly, after hearing the same program at the Wigmore Hall last month, The Times of London considered the concert “another highlight in the career of the 25-year-old Russian.” The review explained:
“The juxtaposition of heady Schumann and detached, ironic Shostakovich was inspired. In his selection from the 24 Preludes and Fugues, Trifonov carried a rapt audience from the lilt and sob of No. 4 to the thunderous, towering ending of No. 24 in D minor. Then, fired up, he dazzled us with three movements from Stravinsky’s Petrushka, bursting with colour, brilliance and life.”
Now, after taking him all over the world this season – not only to London and New York but also to Florence, Barcelona, Madrid, Oslo, Cologne, Dortmund, Dresden, Sydney, and Melbourne – this program is the vehicle for Trifonov’s upcoming North American solo recital tour, with debuts at the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society (March 24) and North Carolina’s Duke Performances (March 31); a recital debut in Baltimore’s Shriver Hall Concert Series (April 2); and returns to Chicago’s Symphony Center (March 26), Toronto’s Koerner Recital Hall (March 28), and Washington’s Kennedy Center (April 4).
Also featuring prominently in the pianist’s 2016-17 programming are four Mozart piano concertos. He plays the composer’s Piano Concerto No. 9 for his return to the Philadelphia Orchestra under music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin (April 7–9). It was with the same forces that Trifonov recorded his Rachmaninov Variations CD, for which he received his second Grammy nomination. Naming the disc one of the “Top Ten Classical Recordings of 2015,” the Guardian found that “the larger-than-life sound of the Philadelphia Orchestra under Yannick Nézet-Séguin provide[d] the perfect foil to Trifonov’s thoughtful and sometimes surprisingly introspective playing.” As Gramophone magazine observed, “Trifonov and Nézet-Séguin do seem genuinely to be a meeting of musical minds.”
The pianist shares a similar rapport with his mentor and former teacher, Armenian pianist Sergei Babayan. When the two played 19th-century piano duos by Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, and Rachmaninov at the Wigmore Hall last season, the Guardian described their performance as “breathtaking … a beguiling affair that combined formidable technique with musicianship of great elegance.” The review continued:
“Their platform partnership is clearly founded on deep mutual understanding and respect. … Their playing blends rigour with great charm and an almost tangible sense of their own enjoyment.”
This spring, the pianists reprise their four-hands recital program for their debut at Florida’s Sarasota Concert Association on March 30.
Another of Trifonov’s regular collaborators is the great Latvian violinist Gidon Kremer, who celebrated his 70th birthday this Monday (Feb 27). To honor this milestone, on Friday Deutsche Grammophon released Preghiera, a collection of Rachmaninov trios named for Fritz Kreisler’s arrangement of the famous theme from his Second Piano Concerto. Pairing this with the Russian composer’s early Trio élégiaque Nos. 1 and 2, the album marks the trio recording debut of Trifonov, Kremer, and Lithuanian cellist Giedrė Dirvanauskaitė. The three musicians previously collaborated at the violinist’s Kremerata Baltica – Trifonov as soloist, Dirvanauskaité as principal cellist – as well as in a “riveting recital” (Los Angeles Times) at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
It was once again with Rachmaninov – the composer’s notoriously challenging Third Concerto – that the young pianist made his Berlin Philharmonic debut in New Year’s Eve concerts led by Sir Simon Rattle. As the Financial Times observed, his performance “offered an opportunity to meditate on the spiritual struggle that underlies the music’s virtuosic surface.” The review continued:
“The 25-year-old played with both implosive intensity and dreamy introspection in the opening movement, caressed by the Philharmonic’s accompaniment. … In the inner Intermezzo, Trifonov created moments of existential desperation following the orchestra’s sobbing lines, shaping melodies expertly above the piano’s inner voices. By the final movement, he had broken out into a grin, joining the orchestra in a triumph of spirited, razor-sharp ensemble playing. An encore of Nikolai Medtner’s Alla Reminiscenza from Forgotten Melodies 1 revealed that he still had pristine arpeggios up his sleeve.”
Trifonov’s full schedule continues apace next season, when he has been invited to showcase the range of his artistry as recitalist, concerto soloist, chamber musician, and composer in a seven-concert “Perspectives” series at Carnegie Hall.