Much of the programming intended to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth was preempted in 2020 by the pandemic, but this season musicians around the world are making up for lost time. Trifonov plays all five Beethoven concertos across North America and Europe over the course of the season, starting with the Fourth Concerto with Jaap van Zweden and the New York Philharmonic (Sep 17–19), followed by performances of both the Fourth and Second Concertos with the Cincinnati Symphony under the baton of Louis Langrée (Sep 24 & 25). For the Munich Philharmonic’s opening week, Trifonov performs the First, Third and Fourth Concertos with Music Director Valery Gergiev and the orchestra in its new Isarphilharmonie venue, before joining Gergiev and his Mariinsky Orchestra in the same venue for performances of the Second Concerto (Oct 8–17). Gergiev and the Mariinsky are longtime collaborators with Trifonov: not only were they with him for his 2011 Carnegie Hall debut after he won the First Prize, Gold Medal, and Grand Prix at the XIV International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, but they subsequently recorded the piece he played—Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto—on the Mariinsky label; The Observer UK found the recording “scorching and heart-rending, but never bombastic.” The pianist reunites with Langrée in December in Paris, joining the Orchestre des Champs-Élysées as one of six soloists in a special concert organized by The Diapason magazine, in which he performs the first movement of Beethoven’s Fourth Concerto (Dec 15).
The entire Fourth Concerto is on the program when he joins the Budapest Festival Orchestra led by Iván Fischer for performances in May (May 15–17), and that same month the Fifth “Emperor” Concerto is the vehicle for three performances with the Toronto Symphony led by chief conductor Gustavo Gimeno (May 25, 27, 28).
It was conductor, pianist and composer Hans von Bülow who first designated the “three B’s of music,” and while he may have been making a value judgment, there are also interrelationships to justify the association. Brahms used themes from Bach in both his First Cello Sonata and Fourth Symphony, apart from making the famous arrangement for the left hand of the Chaconne that appears on Trifonov’s new album. He was also inspired by Beethoven: on Trifonov’s second recital program of the season, for a two-leg tour of the U.S. in the fall and spring, the pianist performs Brahms’s Sonata No. 3 in F minor, three movements of which incorporate the “fate motif” from Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Likewise, the Rondo finale of Brahms’s First Piano Concerto, which Trifonov performs throughout the season in both the U.S. and Europe, shows similarities to the Rondo of Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto, a piece that forms part of Trifonov’s Munich Philharmonic collaboration in October.
Composer Mason Bates was co-commissioned by the Philadelphia Orchestra and the San Francisco Symphony to write a new concerto for Trifonov during the pandemic. The pianist joins the former orchestra for the world premiere in January, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin (Jan 14–16); the same orchestra and conductor were Trifonov’s partners for a series of three Rachmaninoff albums released on Deutsche Grammophon, two of which were nominated for Grammy Awards. The West Coast premiere with the San Francisco Symphony will be conducted by rising young conductor and Alan Gilbert protégé Ruth Reinhardt (June 2–5). In between these engagements, Trifonov performs the piece with the Israel Philharmonic under the baton of Lahav Shani (March 22 & 25), and as Artist-in-Residence with the New Jersey Symphony conducted by Xian Zhang (March 10–13).
Many other high-profile orchestral and recital appearances are scattered throughout Trifonov’s 2021–22 season, some exploring lesser-known music by his Russian compatriots. With the Concertgebouw Orchestra led by Finnish conductor Santtu-Matias Rouvali, the pianist performs a pre-Shostakovich Soviet piano concerto: Alexander Mosolov’s Piano Concerto No. 1 (Dec 9–12). Alternating with his performances of the Bates Concerto with the Israel Philharmonic and Lahav Shani, he plays Prokofiev’s Second Piano Concerto (March 24 & 26), and the next month he turns to Prokofiev’s First along with Alfred Schnittke’s Concerto for Piano and String Orchestra for two concerts with the Montreal Symphony led by its new Music Director, Rafael Payare (April 20 & 21). As is true of most of Trifonov’s seasons, he also collaborates in 2021-22 with his teacher and mentor Sergei Babayan—praised by Le Figaro as a pianist of “unequaled touch, perfectly harmonious phrasing, and breathtaking virtuosity”—performing a program of two-piano music by Rachmaninoff at Milan’s La Scala, preceded by stops in Florence, Rome and Torino.