I think Trifonov gets better and better.

Daniil Trifonov, the young Russian sensation, played a recital in Carnegie Hall last Wednesday night. His instrument is the piano. His program was all-Schumann on the first half, all-Russian on the second. The Russian composers were two greats of the twentieth century, Shostakovich and Stravinsky.

 

Going forward, Trifonov sometimes used too much pedal, causing too much of a blur. Also, he was sometimes too plodding. One could see, and feel, the bar lines. This was a pedestrian account of Kinderszenen, I’m afraid.

 

There is a Cult of Trifonov—a widespread and intense admiration of him—and one can well understand it. But the cult was not justified at this point of the evening.

 

And he was even more in his stride, more in his groove, after intermission, when he sat down for Shostakovich’s Preludes and Fugues. Not all of them. Five of them, which is to say, five pairs. Outstanding was the Prelude and Fugue in A major. It was dreamlike, played with delicacy and fondness. Then there was the Prelude and Fugue in A minor. The prelude is a toccata of sorts, and it was Trifonov’s best toccata of the night (if I may). In the fugue, he played with a detachedness that reminded me of Gould, playing Bach. Very effective.

 

In all, Trifonov played these pieces with a devotion, and a charisma, that made me want to know the Preludes and Fugues better—all twenty-four of them.

 

Trifonov is a composer as well as a performer—he likes to roll his own. I hope we will hear his own pieces as encores. His colleague Marc-André Hamelin is one pianist who does this. Hamelin has been known to place his pieces on the program itself (if I remember correctly). So has Stephen Hough.