Chopin, Preludes, op. 28, G. Sokolov
Scriabin, Piano Sonatas, M.-A. Hamelin
The opening work, Scriabin's second sonata (Sonate-fantaisie, op. 19, 1892-97), was the one that seemed likely to be the best match for Trifonov's temperament. Scriabin was staying in Genoa and the Crimea while working on it, and the sounds and feel of the ocean waves are what drive the piece. According to his letters, he reworked it many times, settling on a two-movement form: a slow introduction (supposedly a moonlit southern sea) followed by a turbulent Presto (the ocean roiling with agitated waves). He packed exceptional beauty into just the introduction, taking care to craft and shape each sound, layering voicing upon voicing to give a sense of depth to the oceanic texture. In the first movement, the moonlight sections are cast in the key of E major, which the synesthete Scriabin saw as a light blue or sea blue color (Rimsky-Korsakov, who also confused colors and sounds, often used the same key for his seascapes), given a transparent, gleaming finish by Trifonov. His take on the second movement was breathtakingly fast, a storm-tossed tea that seethed with movement. Anatole Leikin's study of the piano rolls that Scriabin made of this piece indicates that Scriabin took broad liberties with the tempo in both movements, especially the first, taking the second faster than the tempo he marked and emphasizing the right-hand material over the left-hand octaves, even distorting the rhythms he marked to enhance the sense of agitation. Much of that, intentional or no, seemed reflected in Trifonov's performance.
Anne Midgette, At Kennedy Center, Daniil Trifonov proves himself an heir to Liszt (Washington Post, January 21)
Marie-Aude Roux, La fascinante maturité de Daniil Trifonov, jeune prodige russe (Le Monde, January 11)
Trifonov brought many of the same qualities to a complete performance of Chopin's Preludes, op. 28 (search through the list of works to see the first editions of these pieces), playing the shorter pieces impetuously, as if they were not complete thoughts but brief flashes of inspiration. His rubato was free and mercurial, but the extremes of technical accomplishment -- the sparkle of his left hand in no. 3, for example -- were not at the center of the interpretation, and often previously unnoticed details (at least by me) materialized. Three encores were the reward for a rousing ovation: Liszt's arrangement of Schumann's song Widmung (drenched in emotion); Rachmaninoff's arrangement of a Bach Gavotte, from the third violin partita (odd harmonies mixed with sprightly spring -- see video embedded below); and Agosti's arrangement of the "Danse Infernale" from Stravinsky's Firebird (diabolical mania of orchestral scope).