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Daniil Trifonov, RFH review - devil in the works | reviews, news & interviews

Daniil Trifonov, RFH review - devil in the works

Daniil Trifonov, RFH review - devil in the works

Electric-shock Scriabin in a programme mostly dominated by a wilful virtuoso's personality

Trifonov: demonic intentDG

For the first 20 or so minutes and the second encore of this generous recital, I turned into a Trifonite, in thrall to the 28-year-old Russian pianist's communicative powers. Has Scriabin, in an imperious sweep from early to late, ever made more consistent sense? Could anyone else transcribe the opening sleigh-ride into mysticism and back of Rachmaninov's "choral symphony" The Bells, his most lustrously orchestrated movement, and come out shining?

Even when he's bending the music to his own seemingly mercurial will, Trifonov is never less than watchable and worth hearing, though whether his thoughts best serve the music is open to question. You sometimes wonder if the hunching over the keyboard and the springing from the seat actually hinder some of the articulation; maybe every note doesn't need to be heard, but in the grotesque juggernaut at the centre of the coruscating finale to Prokofiev's Eighth Piano Sonata, which he seemed to want to play standing, much focus was lost.

Everything about the two Scriabin portions of the evening worked, triumphantlyProkofiev's first movement seemed more a study in glassy lyricism, the sustaining pedal surely too present, and motoric clarity than the more human narrative of private pain interrupted by malign, near-fatal forces, impressive as it all sounded. At least the tolling of infinity's bells - mesmerisingly done - seemed to clarify an otherwise puzzling connection with the three movements from Borodin's Petite Suite the sonata followed without a break; "Au Couvent" rang out grandly at the beginning of the second half without a hint of the "petite".

The demonic seems to be Trifonov's aim; the lucidity of Beethoven's late A flat major Sonata suddenly metamorphosed as Lucifer's sprint to Heaven's gates once Beethoven turns his finale's sublime fugue subject on its head. You could see on paper why Trifonov might want Op. 110's serenity to follow immediately on the heels of Scriabin's unresolvable Ninth, "Black Mass" Sonata, but it didn't quite work in practice.

Whereas everything about the two Scriabin portions of the evening did, triumphantly. To book-end an awe-inspiring sequence right at the start of the evening, Trifonov took aristocratic measure of the early C sharp minor and D sharp minor Etudes, probably Scriabin’s best-known pieces, but never fresher-sounding than here. He took flight with the distant voices of the first Op. 32 Poème – no better argument, surely, for the tonal and dynamic possibilities of the Fazioli piano he chose – before moving on to the first, and most successful, heaven-storming of a cosmic programme. The second Rachmaninov encore – the first, the Vocalise, singing perhaps less than usual, and rather oddly terminated – was well in tune with that. Sometimes frustrating, Trifonov is no more the answer to the ludicrous “who is the world’s best living pianist?” question than several of the other pianists featured in an impressive Southbank winter season, but it’s all engagement of a formidable technique and communication at the highest level.

Even when he's bending the music to his own seemingly mercurial will, Trifonov is never less than watchable and worth hearing

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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