Russian concert pianist and composer Daniil Trifonov plays Johannes Brahms' Chaconne in D minor for the Left Hand (after Johann Sebastian Bach's Partita for Solo Violin No.2, BWV 1004). Recorded at the Verbier Festival, in the Salle des Combins, on July 24, 2016.
There is a sense of profundity inherent to the Chaconne from Bach's D minor violin partita that sets it apart even from its composer's other masterworks for the solo instrument. From the chords of the opening four bars – which form the basic harmonic structure underpinning the 64 consecutive variations that unfold over more than fifteen minutes of music – there is a feeling of gravity and significance. Unlike in a variation on a melody, in a chaconne it is the harmony which is retained throughout, leading to great melodic flexibility. There is always a sense of the music being grounded in a single idea, yet the composer takes the performer and listener through a full spectrum of moods, styles, ranges, colors, and dynamics, like the kaleidoscope of a jewel viewed from several angles. This sheer variety is one of the reasons for the chaconne's ascent to becoming a pinnacle of the repertoire. To sustain both technical dexterity and emotional engagement throughout the entire dance movement – which requires the performer to run the gamut of technical possibilities for the instrument – demands skill, maturity, and devotion. The size of this dance alone, longer than the combined length previous four movements in the partita, speaks to its depth and breadth. Violinist Arnold Steinhardt acknowledges the grandness of the chaconne, noting that "the sum total of all these parts is – if you were to make a visual comparison – to be inside a cathedral. It has detail. It has grandness of design. It has a kind of religious fervor to it, you might say".
Since its rediscovery in the 19th century, the chaconne has both captivated and eluded musicians and audiences, and has, as a result, been adapted for numerous instruments and contexts. One of the most famous of such adaptions comes from Johannes Brahms, who in 1877 transcribed it for the left hand of the piano, and dedicated it to Clara Schumann; he later would later include the movement as the last of his Five Studies for the left hand. Brahms's admiration for Bach's music and this work in particular, is summarized in a letter to Clara, in which he writes: "The Chaconne is in my opinion one of the most wonderful and incomprehensible pieces of music. Using the technique adapted to a small instrument the man writes a whole world of the deepest thoughts and most powerful feelings. If I could picture myself writing, or even conceiving, such a piece, I am certain that the extreme excitement and emotional tension would have driven me mad".
The violin is, by nature, more limited than the piano in creating the sense of vastness that the chaconne seems to demand, and Brahms recognized this dichotomy between intimacy and grandness. By restricting the performer to the use of the five fingers of the left hand, the composer retains the same feeling of a single individual, inherently limited, attempting to scale the heights of something much larger and more profound than itself.
Source: Patrick Jankowski (patrickjankowskimusic.com)
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
♪ Chaconne in D minor for the Left Hand (after Johann Sebastian Bach's Partita for Solo Violin No.2, BWV 1004) (1877)
Daniil Trifonov, piano
Directed by Colin Laurent
Switzerland, Verbier Festival, Salle des Combins, July 24, 2016
Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov has made a spectacular ascent in the world of classical music as a solo artist, a champion of the concerto repertoire, a collaborator at the keyboard in chamber music and song, and a composer. Combining consummate technique with rare sensitivity and depth, his performances are a perpetual source of awe. "He has everything and more... tenderness and also the demonic element. I never heard anything like that", marveled pianist Martha Argerich, while the Times (UK) has named Trifonov "without question the most astounding pianist of our age".
Focusing on Chopin in the 2017-2018 season, he releases Chopin Evocations, his fourth album as an exclusive Deutsche Grammophon artist, which includes both works by Chopin himself and, marking Trifonov's first foray into a new repertoire, works of 20th-century composers who were greatly influenced by the Polish master, including Samuel Barber, Federico Mompou and others.
Trifonov gives over 20 recitals on the same theme across the U.S., Europe and Asia this season, including one in Carnegie Hall as part of a seven-concert, season-long Perspectives series which he curates. Three of the seven concerts are devoted to Chopin and his influence: the solo recital and two all-Chopin programs with cellist Gautier Capuçon and the Kremerata Baltica chamber orchestra. Further concerts in the series include collaborations with baritone Matthias Goerne and Trifonov's teacher and mentor Sergei Babayan, the latter capping a U.S. tour that includes the world premiere of a Carnegie-commissioned work for two pianos by Mauro Lanza; a performance of his own piano concerto with longtime collaborator Valery Gergiev leading the Mariinsky Orchestra, again culminating a U.S. tour; and finally a solo recital in Zankel Hall that includes a seminal piece from each decade of the 20th century. Trifonov curates a similar series of recitals and orchestral appearances this season at the Vienna Konzerthaus, where he gives five performances, and in San Francisco, concluding with a season-closing Rachmaninov performance with the San Francisco Symphony and Michael Tilson-Thomas.
Trifonov's season contains much else as well. He tours Asia in the fall with a combination of recitals and orchestral performances, and goes on European tours with violinist Gidon Kremer and Kremerata Baltica, the London Philharmonic, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, and the Teatro alla Scala Orchestra. Other orchestral appearances include Strauss' Burleske with the Spanish National Orchestra and Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra; the Schumann Concerto with Lisbon's Gulbenkian Orchestra and the Berlin Philharmonic; Prokofiev with the Mariinsky Orchestra led by Gergiev, and the Cleveland Orchestra led by Michael Tilson Thomas; Scriabin's Piano Concerto with the Seattle Symphony and Ludovic Morlot; a performance of his own piano concerto with the Detroit Symphony; and further Rachmaninov performances with Gergiev and the Munich Philharmonic, the Toronto Symphony led by Peter Oundjian, and the Philadelphia Orchestra under the baton of Yannick Nézet-Séguin.
The 2016-2017 season brought the release of Transcendental, a double album that represented Trifonov's third title as an exclusive Deutsche Grammophon artist and the first time Liszt's complete concert etudes had been recorded for the label in full. In concert, the pianist – winner of Gramophone's 2016 Artist of the Year award – played Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto under Riccardo Muti in the historic gala finale of the Chicago Symphony's 125th anniversary celebrations. Having scored his second Grammy Award nomination with Rachmaninov Variations, he performed Rachmaninov for his debut with the Berlin Philharmonic under Sir Simon Rattle at the orchestra's famous New Year's Eve concert, aired live in cinemas throughout Europe. Also with Rachmaninov, he made debuts with the Melbourne and Sydney Symphonies, returned to the Los Angeles Philharmonic under Gustavo Dudamel and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, and headlined the Munich Philharmonic's "Rachmaninov Cycle" tour with Gergiev. Mozart was the vehicle for his reengagements with the New York Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, and Philadelphia Orchestra, as well as for dates with the Staatskapelle Dresden at home and at the Salzburg Festival and London's BBC Proms. He rejoined the Staatskapelle for Ravel, besides playing Beethoven with Zurich's Tonhalle Orchestra; Prokofiev with the Rotterdam Philharmonic; Chopin on tour with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra; and Schumann with the Houston Symphony, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, and on tour with Riccardo Chailly and the Teatro alla Scala Orchestra. With a new recital program of Schumann, Shostakovich, and Stravinsky, Trifonov made recital debuts at London's Barbican and Melbourne's Recital Centre; appeared in Berlin, Vienna, Florence, Madrid, Oslo, Moscow, and other European hotspots; and returned to Philadelphia, Baltimore, and – for the fourth consecutive year – the mainstage of New York's Carnegie Hall. He also returned to the Tanglewood, Verbier, Baden-Baden, and Salzburg Festivals.
Other highlights of recent seasons include complete Rachmaninov concerto cycles at the New York Philharmonic's Rachmaninov Festival and with London's Philharmonia Orchestra; debuts with the Chicago Symphony, Boston Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Montreal Symphony, Rome's Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, London's Royal Philharmonic and BBC Proms, the Berlin Staatskapelle, and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, where he headlined the prestigious Nobel Prize Concert; and an Asian tour with the Czech Philharmonic. Since making solo recital debuts at Carnegie Hall, London's Wigmore Hall, Vienna's Musikverein, Japan's Suntory Hall, and the Salle Pleyel in Paris in 2012-2013, Trifonov has given solo recitals at venues including the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., Boston's Celebrity Series, London's Royal Festival and Queen Elizabeth halls, Amsterdam's Concertgebouw (Master Piano Series), Berlin's Philharmonie (the Kammermusiksaal), Munich's Herkulessaal, Bavaria's Schloss Elmau, Zurich's Tonhalle, the Lucerne Piano Festival, the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, the Théâtre des Champs Élysées and Auditorium du Louvre in Paris, Barcelona's Palau de la Musica, Tokyo's Opera City, and the Seoul Arts Center.
The 2013-2014 season saw the release of Trifonov: The Carnegie Recital, the pianist's first recording as an exclusive Deutsche Grammophon artist; captured live at his sold-out 2013 Carnegie Hall recital debut, the album scored both an ECHO Klassik Award and a Grammy nomination. Besides the similarly Grammy-nominated Rachmaninov Variations, recorded with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Yannick Nézet-Séguin, his discography also features a Chopin album for Decca and a recording of Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto with Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra on the ensemble's own label.
It was during the 2010-2011 season that Trifonov won medals at three of the music world's most prestigious competitions, taking Third Prize in Warsaw's Chopin Competition, First Prize in Tel Aviv's Rubinstein Competition, and both First Prize and Grand Prix – an additional honor bestowed on the best overall competitor in any category – in Moscow's Tchaikovsky Competition. In 2013 he was also awarded the prestigious Franco Abbiati Prize for Best Instrumental Soloist by Italy's foremost music critics.
Born in Nizhny Novgorod in 1991, Trifonov began his musical training at the age of five, and went on to attend Moscow's Gnessin School of Music as a student of Tatiana Zelikman, before pursuing his piano studies with Sergei Babayan at the Cleveland Institute of Music. He has also studied composition, and continues to write for piano, chamber ensemble, and orchestra. When he premiered his own piano concerto in 2013, the Cleveland Plain Dealer marveled: "Even having seen it, one cannot quite believe it. Such is the artistry of pianist-composer Daniil Trifonov".
Franz Schubert: Piano Sonata No.18 in G major "Fantasy" – Daniil Trifonov
Frédéric Chopin: Piano Concertos No.2 in F minor & No.1 in E minor – Daniil Trifonov, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Mikhail Pletnev
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Piano Concerto No.23 in A major – Daniil Trifonov, Israel Camerata Jerusalem, Avner Biron