Devilishly good! Daniil Trifonov in Rome

Sala Sinopoli, Auditorium Parco della Musica – 14 November 2014

Autographed Daniil Trifonov CD
Since winning the 2011 Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition, and sweeping the board at the XIV International Tchaikovsky Competition that same year, 23 year old Russian concert pianist Daniil Trifonov has been steadily making a name for himself around the world, garnering critical praise and performing at prestigious venues. When a concert pianist of the calibre of Martha Argerich publicly expresses wonder at the prodigious talents of a young pianist, one tends to sit up and take notice after all. I was mildly surprised, therefore, to see that Trifonov’s recent Rome concert was to take place in Sala Sinopoli, one of the smaller of the main concert halls at the Auditorium Parco della Musica, and that whilst reasonably full, the venue was by no means sold out. No doubt that will change in the future as his reputation grows in Italy too. Certainly the stunning performance he gave on Friday evening will have earned him many new admirers.

There’s a fearlessness about Daniil Trifonov that is apparent from the very second he steps out on stage. A brisk bow, and it was right down to business with Liszt’s arrangement of Bach’s organ Fantasia and Fugue in G minor, played with majestic boldness and assurance. Next on the programme was Beethoven’s final sonata, No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111, another excellent choice that exhibited Trifonov’s extraordinary interpretive abilities as a performer. He brought a freshness and sense of improvisation to the sonata, with his formidable technique eliciting gasps during the most delicate pianissimos.

After a short interval, Trifonov was back on stage and already at the keyboard as stragglers in the audience were still returning to their seats, launching zealously into what would prove to be a remarkable tour de force – all twelve of Liszt’s Transcendental Etudes. Clocking in at over an hour in length, a live performance of these technically challenging Etudes is a formidable feat of sheer stamina for any artist – and can be exhausting for the listener too - but Trifonov seemed, at times, a man possessed, unafraid to explore his own hidden depths, and push the capabilities of the piano as an instrument. His playing was so seductively demonic, one really did begin to wonder if he had made a Faustian pact with the devil!

The audience followed him spellbound on this journey and the close of the Etudes was met with rapturous applause. Trifonov was coaxed out on stage for numerous curtain calls and to loud cries of bravo! He did not, however, perform an encore. After such a marathon it was clear that he had given us his all. Remarkable – a must-see performer.

Full programme:
Fantasia and Fugue in G minor BWV542, transcribed for piano by Liszt
Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111
12 Etudes d’exécution transcendante S139