New Classical Tracks

Daniil Trifonov reconnects with his Russian past

Daniil Trifonov breathes new air into Russian classics.Courtesy of artist

New Classical Tracks: Daniil Trifonov (extended)


April 07, 2021
New Classical Tracks: Daniil Trifonov

New Classical Tracks: Daniil Trifonov
by MPR

Daniil Trifonov — The Silver Age (Deutsche Grammophon)

Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov is used to traveling and performing as an international soloist. During the global pandemic, like most of us, he's been staying close to home. He and his wife, pianist Judith Ramirez, live in Connecticut. Family time is even more precious since they welcomed their son into the world in August. Among live and streamed concerts over the past few months, he also released a new recording that highlights Russian composers from about 1880 to 1925, The Silver Age.

Trifonov achieved international fame in 2011, when he won first prize in the Tchaikovsky Competition and then gave his professional debut at Carnegie Hall, performing Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto with Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra. Now he has reunited with that conductor and orchestra.

What do you appreciate most about working with Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra?

"When it comes to Scriabin, Gergiev himself played that concerto as a pianist on tour in the Soviet Union before he became a conductor. Scriabin is always full of rubato and timing fluctuations, and the orchestra needs to know the score quite well. There is a lot of interchange between the soloist and the orchestra and a lot of things can go wrong in that concerto. It usually requires a lot of rehearsal. It's easier when the conductor knows the score and the orchestra has experience playing that music as well."

Can you talk about where we hear Chopin's influences in Scriabin's Piano Concerto?

"The concerto is probably one of the last works that still have a strong connection to his earlier style, but it already shows the newer trends that he would later embrace. When it comes to Chopin's influence in this concerto, it probably would be the incredible pianistic fluidity, poetry of expression and certain fragility and vulnerability of harmonies and moods in the music."

Can you tell us what the Silver Age in Russia was about?

"In Russia, we use this to describe a very unusual development of the arts in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when there was various directions the arts took. The movement happened in all forms of art to include paintings, dance and music. The common trait amongst the forms was experimentation."

What was most challenging for you when performing piano transcriptions from Stravinsky's Firebird?

"I actually played this piece for my entrance exam to universities in the United States. It was one of my pieces for my auditions. It's very dear to me, and it's a brilliant transcription. I'm actually surprised Guido Agosti did not make more transcriptions of other music."

What was most memorable for you in performing Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 2 with Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra?

"My parents were in the audience, which is quite rare. That's quite memorable for me because they usually don't travel to hear my concerts, and they live in Moscow. But on that occasion, they traveled to St. Petersburg. It's very demanding work emotionally. I don't think I would be able to play it on tour every day in a row."

To hear the rest of my conversation, click on the extended interview above, or download the extended podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.


Daniil Trifonov — The Silver Age (Amazon)

Daniil Trifonov — The Silver Age (Deutsche Grammophon)

Daniil Trifonov (Offical site)