The 25-year-old virtuoso pianist is making his Sydney premiere with two programs of music
Double-handed slaying of fiendishly difficult piano pieces is a stereotype that during the 20th century became slanted towards Russians: Sergei Rachmaninov didn’t just create musical Everests, he scaled them himself, fast and furiously. Today the biggest furor on the ivories is Russian too: he’s Daniil Trifonov, and Sydney will soon be able to feel the heat in two very different concerts.
Trifonov will play Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 1. with the Sydney Symphony conducted by Gustavo Gimeno. Then in recital he will play several of Shostakovich’s magnificent preludes and fugues, plus Schumann’s Scenes from Childhood and a piano arrangement that Stravinsky excerpted from his 1911 ballet Petrushka.
The grand piano is the most distinguished instrument in the concert hall, and not just because of all that metal and polished wood. Although technically a member of the banging, bashing and tinkling percussion family, in dexterous hands it can be made to sing as lyrically as strings or winds. In concertos, where a solo instrument is pitted against the orchestra, the piano’s power and range make for a fairer fight than the even the violin, the next favoured solo instrument. And by itself, the vast repertoire of masterpieces written just for piano routinely fill evenings at the great concert halls of the world. No other single instrument forms such a broad channel between composer and performer, nor between a single performer and audience.
The Sydney Symphony’s programming has long reflected the piano’s senior status. Across the year they bring to Sydney several of the world’s great pianists to play a concerto for three nights each at the Sydney Opera House, along with a recital night on their own at the acoustically superior City Recital Hall off Martin Place. This mixed formula keeps everyone happy and coming back for more.
We predict Sydney audiences are going to be astonished as well as happy watching Trifonov, whose recordings of challenging virtuoso pieces make people want to see with their own eyes whether two human hands can really produce them on demand. But he is clearly not afraid to play comparatively simple pieces very slowly, which is where an artist’s sensibilities and understanding are on display more than technical skill.
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