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Review: Fireworks In Fog as the Fiery Daniil Trifonov Plays Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood

By Mark McLaren, Editor in Chief, July 13, 2017

The young pianist Daniil Trifonov dashed Berkshire tranquility last night in a fierce display of virtuosity at Ozawa Hall on the previously serene grounds of Tanglewood. In Lenox for Mozart with the BSO on Friday night, Trifonov chose post-classical rep for his Ozawa recital, offering an intimate and rare experience for a lucky few to witness this powerhouse technician.

Superlatives flew like moths to stage lighting, and rightly so. This pianist is a technical force-of-nature, and watching him muscle his way through Schumann, Shostakovich and Stravinsky was thrilling. Last night, he plainly stated that his hands’ potential is boundless.

The grounds at Tanglewood, Lenox Massachusetts; photo: ZEALnyc.

Schumann dominated the first half, beginning pointedly with Kinderszenen, Scenes from Childhood, Easy pieces for piano, Opus 15. Child-like simplicity wasn’t always driving Trifonov’s reading, but a strong point of view subsided sweetly for selections of Kinderszenen, including a sensitive “Pleading child,” and a very tender “Dreaming.”

Carefully planned splashy followed with Schumann’s virtuosic Toccata in C, Opus 7, a work that is influenced by a similarly flashy work by pedagogue Carl Czerny. And showmanship was center as Trifonov tore through the work with impressive agility.

Just a whiff of fog materialized during moments in Trifonov’s Schumann with some propensity to rush phrase endings, dotted rhythms and sixteenth notes. Just a whiff to be sure, but the propensities nagged during the toccata, had appeared in ‘Knight of the hobbyhorse’ and continued now and again in “Äußerst bewegt (Extremely animated).” During an otherwise impressive reading of Kreisleriana, Fantasies for piano, Opus 16, other movements (“Sehr aufgeregt Very agitated”) sparkled with clarity and phrasing sang with full enunciation.

The grounds at Tanglewood, Lenox Massachusetts: photo: ZEALnyc.

Clarity burned off any fog for the remainder of this moody night as Trifonov moved to selections from 24 Preludes and Fugues, Opus 87 of Shostakovich. Here his playing, still exciting in the extreme, was also supple and concise. The fugue of “No. 2 Prelude and Fugue in A minor” was perhaps some of the most maturely satisfying of the night, nimble accuracy and powerful heart.

And in a final powerful display, he ended with three movements from Petrushka. With crowd-pleasing bombast, his work was clean. Channeling an orchestra for this transcription and with sweat pouring off his face, sometimes body-slamming the instrument, Trifonov wrestled from his Steinway orchestral heft.

An encore of Federico Mompou’s Variations on a theme of Chopin was followed by more superlatives and deep sighs wafting into the Berkshire fog on this most unique night.

Daniil Trifonov appears with the BSO this Friday the 14th at 8, playing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21 in C, K. 467. Andris Nelsons conducts Ravel, Haydn and Adés in addition.

Nelsons returns on Saturday the 15th at 8 to conduct Wagner’s Das Rheingold.

We report on the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s opening Tanglewood weekend here and here.


Pianist Daniil Trifonov in recital at Tanglewood’s Ozawa Hall, Lenox Massachusetts playing Robert Schumann’s Kinderszenen (Scenes from Childhood) Easy pieces for piano, Opus 15, Toccata in C, Opus 7, Kreisleriana, Fantasies for piano, Opus 16, Dimitri Shostakovich 24 Preludes and Fugues, Opus 87 (selections), Igor Stravinsky  Three Movements from Petrushka and Federico Mompou’s Variations on a theme of Chopin on Wednesday, July 12th at 8pm.

Cover photo: Pianist Daniil Trifonov; photo: Boston Symphony Orchestra/Hilary Scott.


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