At any given moment, there is an “it” pianist, young and blazingly talented, whom the whole world is clamoring to hear. We had Evgeny Kissin, then Lang Lang, then Yuja Wang, and now it is Daniil Trifonov — a polished artist, still in his 20s, whose interpretations are as nuanced and profound as anyone three times his age.
Whatever ailed the Russian virtuoso over the weekend (Trifonov canceled a concert in Baltimore) was seemingly gone Tuesday. His Kennedy Center recital was a triumphant display of pianism and imagination.
In works of Schumann, Shostakovich and Stravinsky, Trifonov was magisterial, creative and unruffled. The impishness that marked some of his early appearances was now channeled into still deeper concentration. Most impressive was a set of five Shostakovich preludes and fugues (from Op. 87): The glowing, sidereal textures of No. 7, the expressive details within the furious agitation of No. 2, the Himalayan sonorities of the No. 24 prelude, invoking the “Great Gate of Kiev,” and the amazing control of tempo in the ensuing fugue (a long accelerando, perfectly judged) — all bespoke a master pianist. In Stravinsky’s “Trois Mouvements de Petrouchka,” Trifonov, if anything, held back some of his blistering keyboard power. Other pianists have played the “Russian Dance” faster, but none have given it such an earthy kick.
Trifonov is also a composer, and in his Schumann set — “Kinderszenen,” his Toccata and “Kreisleriana” — the liberties he took with the score were startling. Perhaps he felt he knew better, but Schumann’s dynamics and phrasing marks were regularly ignored or changed. To be sure, what remained was fulsome music-making, with long lines and a sense of fantasy everywhere; but one has to wonder whether he couldn’t have done the same with the music as written.
This is one of the great young artists of our time, and it’s hard to imagine what another 20 years of experience and reflection will bring to his interpretations.
The concert was a presentation of Washington Performing Arts.