Up to the challenge

At age 21, Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov has already captured a number of coveted prizes in Israel and abroad.

Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov 390  (photo credit: Courtesy)
Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov 390
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Two winners of this year’s Arthur Rubinstein Piano Competition – Israeli Boris Giltburg (second prize) and Daniil Trifonov of Russia (gold medal) – will perform recitals at London’s Wigmore Hall on March 12 and 14, respectively.
The concerts are initiated by Idith Zvi, the artistic director of the Arthur Rubinstein International Music Society, with the support of the BBC and of Lady Annabel Weidenfeld, who shared the last 12 years of Arthur Rubinstein’s life with him and is in constant contact with the society and the competition. A group of supporters of the Arthur Rubinstein International Society will join them in London as well.
Giltburg’s recital, which features pieces by Rachmaninov, Prokofiev and Schumann, will be broadcast live by the BBC. Two days later Trifonov, who is also a gold medal winner of the prestigious Tchaikovsky Piano Competition and is regarded as one of the finest pianists of his generation, will play pieces by Schubert, Liszt, Tchaikovsky and Chopin. That concert will be recorded and will be available on the Arthur Rubinstein Society website.
The modest, charismatic Trifonov is a welcome guest on our shores.
After his most recent Israeli recital, which took place at the Red Sea Classics Festival earlier this year, he gave a brief interview with The Jerusalem Post, speaking about what has changed and what has not following his victories in the two major piano competitions.
For starters, how does it feel to find himself at the top of the music world at the age of 21? “I don’t think that a performing artist should even think of it,” he says. “Of course, it is great that I played well at the two important competitions and that my performance was appreciated by the jury members. But it still does not mean one should make a case of it and think of what a great musician I am.
What is important now is to advance, to discover new possibilities of the instrument. I am really grateful to my teachers, who are still my strict and uncompromising critics.”
But, of course, his life has changed considerably.
“The major change is that I now work with artists’ agencies, which offer me concert performances. And it means that I have to learn quite a few new concertos for piano and orchestra, as well as widen my solo repertoire. I also have to limit my concert schedule to some 90 concerts a season. To play more than 100 concerts a year is very hard, and with such a schedule you are simply unable to really learn new pieces and to advance as a musician.
The main thing now is to manage my time properly,” he says.
In addition to his performing activities, Trifonov continues his studies at the Cleveland Institute of Music in the framework of the Artists’ Certificate Program, which is tailored for musicians who are unable to spend the entire academic year at school.
Trifonov, who tried his hand at composing, admits that nowadays he has no time for writing music of his own.
“I am not working on major pieces, just collecting material. I hope to return to composing music, and I plan to compose a piano concerto, but certainly not in the next two years. This activity demands not only a lot of time but, above all, the utmost concentration.”
He does, however, attend concerts and operas and listens to recordings of his favorite pianists of the past, such as Sergei Rachmaninov, Dinu Lipati, Vladimir Sofronitsky, Alfred Cortot and Vladimir Horovitz.
What is important for him as a performer, he says, are spontaneity and immersion into the atmosphere of the piece. “You have to capture the spirit of the music, to listen to it, to follow what it suggests. A lot depends on the instrument, on the acoustics, the audience and, yes, on your mood. But again, this all is first and foremost about concentration.”
As for his favorite composers, the pianist says, “The ones that I am currently playing. Well, Chopin, Schumann, Scriabin, but also Bach, Beethoven, Schubert and now Rachmaninov, too.”
When it comes to the future, Trifonov says he will continue to challenge himself with new and demanding repertoires.
And some teaching perhaps? “Maybe,” he says, “but certainly not now. I prefer to be a performer and a little bit of a composer,” he laughs.
For more details: http://www.arims.org.il