Daniil Trifonov - Filharmonia Warsaw - 7th May 2014

I am afraid I was so disappointed in this keenly anticipated recital I cannot write about it at the moment with any degree of detachment. Too emotional. You know how lyrical I have been about his playing in the past. Just look at some of my past postings in the archive on this blog.

All I will say is that there were some beautiful things, moments of finesse and nuance (flashes of the pianistic genius I remember) but also a large number of seriously unacceptable aspects of his interpretations (particularly in the Schumann) and an exaggerated display of keyboard virtuosity. I always considered  he was above this type of thing.

He played Debussy Images Book I Nos:1 & 3, Chopin Preludes Op.28 and the Schumann Symphonic Etudes Op.13 plus sundry unfortunate encores. Much of the time he seemed out of control like a young thoroughbred stallion let loose in a field in spring.

I really do not want to go into details - it is just too painful.

The glorious tone emerged occasionally, oases of silver on a grey and stormy lake but this indifferent sometimes unpleasant Filharmonia  Steinway...well I do not wish to appear mean-spirited. He shines on a Fazioli - where was it?

Ah, the modern world of celebrity rears its ugly head yet again. Self-serving agents, too many prestigious concert engagements, recording contracts and covetous marketing have done their rapacious worst to begin what I truly hope is not the ruination of a brilliant fledgling career. I have watched the destructive nature of artistic commodification occur with other outstanding talents. The glittering prizes hide cruel barbs. Of course Trifonov may have been simply having an 'off night' and was tempted to play to the crowd like an impetuous acrobat.

He is very young (23 - actually not all that young in the current world of Wunderkinder) and prodigiously talented so hope remains. Clearly the exposure and avid praise, the international idolatry he has received after winning all those major competitions has done him no favors artistically or musically. 

Where are his teachers and the responsibility they have for guidance in all the pitfalls both psychological and musical that beset the scintillating careers offered to young competition winners?

The audience as ever cheered in their cheap tasteless way, a standing ovation for the crudest of pianist effects - inflated dynamics and extreme velocity - even the mad medley of Strauss Waltzes in an encore emulating Horowitz but with handfuls of wrong notes. This behavior by an audience is a criminally misleading response to a young artist and virtuoso understandably in need of well-judged approval or reticence

The musical price paid through exaggeration in order to interact spontaneously with a rather classically ill-informed youthful audience is too high to pay as a musician. They adored him - a handsome, brilliant, young Russian virtuoso concert pianist - what more could a young sensitive girl want? For me it damages the finest things in art. Franz Liszt himself was guilty of this weakness. His keyboard wizardry negatively impacted at the time and does even to this day on his reputation as a massively significant and revolutionary composer of supremely serious works of the greatest stature for piano and orchestra. Oddly enough much the same was true of the good-looking Percy Grainger lionized for his robust playing not his compositions. 

Certainly the audience for Trifonov was younger than usual and it is good they are attracted to the concert hall (the way audience attendance is ageing and declining in the classical music world) but are they learning the wrong lessons concerning what classical piano music actually is in essence? Piano playing is not a sport...

I was not moved musically for  hardly a moment...a desperately sad occasion for me.

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