“For Immediate Release,” we read in the Celebrity Series of Boston press kit, “Tickets for Daniil Trifonov are sold out.” A packed Pickman Hall at the Longy School of Music Friday evening was bursting with applause, as patrons, on their feet, called the 21-year-old prizewinning Russian-born pianist back for three encores after an already big program of Scriabin, Medtner, Stravinsky, Debussy, and Chopin.
In the week preceding, Celebrity Series Executive Director Gary Dunning had predicted:“I’m certain his is a name we will hear many times in the future, and we will always recall the magic we experienced when Trifonov made his Boston debut in the intimate setting of Pickman Hall.”
Trifonov is the first of five artists to debut at Longy this season, the outcome of a partnership of Celebrity Series of Boston and the Longy School of Music of Bard College. The “Debut Series” is sponsored by Harriet and David Griesinger. David is a well-known acoustician who also reviews for the Boston Musical Intelligencer.
I was surprised on entering Longy to learn of a substantially changed program: Scriabin’s third piano sonata replaced his announced second, Excerpts From The Firebird by Stravinsky’s arranged by Guido Agosti replaced Liszt’s Piano Sonata in B Minor, and Chopin’s etudes replaced his preludes. Debussy’s Images from the first book and more Russian pieces, three of the Fairy Tales, op. 14 (more correctly, just Tales) by Nikolay Karlovich Medtner (1880-1951) completed the revised program.
Daniil Trifonov has 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). He is scheduled to perform with many of the world’s major orchestras including the Boston Symphony Orchestra with whom he will be performing Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 on November 8th, 9th, and 10th.
How did he do? Pianistic feats, artistic coups, and acts of near perfection and polish reigned from the very first sound, that of a bold C-sharp octave in the left hand, to the final sound in his third and last encore, a genteel E-Major chord taken with both hands on the keyboard’s midrange. Whichever keys Daniil Trifonov touched, there was “magic,” just as Dunning had predicted. Scriabin’s Piano Sonata No. 3 in F-sharp Minor was swathed in gorgeousness. Stravinsky’s orchestral Firebird lit up with moments of utter brilliance, a treble crispiness leaping out of the instrument, the kind of which I had never heard before.
Trionov glided through Debussy’s Reflets dans l’eau, Hommage à Rameau, and Mouvement once again showing that this 21-year-old has a real flair for fineness, and that goes for tempos as well. His were faster than those of older generations, yet yielding completely refined surfaces.
His Opus 25 Études of Chopin climaxed with the opposite of crispiness, a full-throated booming — another round of sound fresh to me — issuing from handfuls of octaves, never noisy ones, by the way, in No. 10 in B-Minor: Allegro con fuoco. As with slower passages in all his playing, there is timbral loveliness which left me wishing for less of it and more of something else.
Encores: Liszt’s piano transcription of Schumann’s Widmung, Chopin’s Grande Valse Brillante in E-flat Major, and Bach-Rachmaninov’s Gavotte from Violin Partita in E Major, originally the German’s reworking of the French folk dance later reworked by the Russian to serve a nice final bonbon.