Classical review: Daniil Trifonov Queen’s Hall

FOLLOWING his wins last year in two of the world’s highest-profile keyboard contests – the Tchaikovsky and Rubinstein competitions – expectations were high for 21-year-old Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov’s EIF recital. And he more than surpassed them, in a breathtaking concert combining boundless athleticism, searing power and an effortless musicality.

Daniil Trifonov

Queen’s Hall

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It almost goes without saying that his technique was immaculate – as demonstrated in the devilish demands of the Chopin op.25 Studies with which he ended his recital, from the stormy, surging octaves of no.10 to the scintillating chains of thirds in no.6. He paced the set expertly, characterising each piece vividly yet slowly building to the shattering and stormy final two movements, which he delivered with elemental force.

Yet he was even more impressive in the lucid beauty he brought to music that’s less technically challenging. His tonal control was breathtaking in the first book of Debussy’s Images: he had the astonishing ability to shape a phrase through his control of tone colour rather than by pulling the piece’s rhythms around too much, with the result that his interpretations combined classical precision and poise with intense emotion.

He brought brilliant clarity to the complex harmonies of the unfamiliar Scriabin Third Sonata, with which he opened his concert, and his traversal of three movements from Stravinsky’s Firebird were breathtaking in their sheer pianistic fireworks.

You have to worry about his posture, though: for much of his recital he seemed stooped over the piano with an unsettling curvature of his spine. But by the end of his four magnificent encores, the audience was still demanding more.