Here’s a brief interview with Daniil Trifonov at the Wiener Konzerthaus, before a performance of Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra under Gianandrea Noseda on November 11th. Eight questions (the Ninth question, how he liked Questionnaires, didn't somehow work as intended, which could, in truth, be said of several of the questions) that we might pose to other artists, should the occasion arise. The transcript is below.
jfl: What do you like best about Vienna, and what least?
Daniil Trifonov: Well, far I’ve had only great experiences in Vienna. There is an amazing cultural life here and it is probably one of the most beautiful cities in this part of the world and I always enjoy it just exploring the surroundings of Vienna.
What is your favorite piece of music that you don’t perform?
[Like lightning] Oh, then it would probably be Scriabin, Poem of Ecstasy. It happens to be one of my favorite works of art since I was a teenager and first listened to this. The harmonic fantasy and flexibility is unbelievable. The colors that Scriabin achieves through his orchestration are something that moves me every time!
If you had to be in professional sports, what sport would that be?
Well, I wouldn’t be in professional sports. Although of course I do sometimes enjoy watching football… I suppose as a kid I was playing football…
When did you first rehearse or ever play ‘Rachmaninoff Two’?
Actually, Rachmaninoff Two, while it’s not a completely recent piece, I’ve played it for the first time maybe two years ago. Quite often this concerto is being learned at a much younger age. But somehow I learned it only two years ago and the first time I’ve played with was with the Philadelphia Orchestra.
Do you have a favorite recording of that work?
Of course Rachmaninoff’s own recording. He did two recordings – and they are actually completely different. If you listen to them one after the other, you wouldn’t believe they are actually by the same pianist. Well, of course it is the same interpreter, but he interprets it completely differently. And even what he writes in the score is vastly different from how he plays it. For instance in the score he might write down “meno mosso”, but in performance he will do “più mosso”. In the score it’s written, let’s say, “crescendo [somethingsomething]” and he just does the opposite, which is very exciting.
Three nouns you associate with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra.
Three words? Hrmpf. Well, it’s the first time I am working with them and I am very much impressed with [the amount of their] participation in the process of the music-making and [how much they put into the performance].
What is your favorite concert venue apart from the Konzerthaus?
My favorite concert venue? [Long pause.] Well, there are great concert halls [around the world.] Let’s say in the United States, you can say Carnegie Hall. In the United Kingdom it is probably Wigmore Hall. In Russia it is the Mariinsky Concert Hall.
Where have you so far felt most comfortable, most at home, playing?
You have to adjust to every type of acoustic. That always means some element of discovery. No one acoustic is completely the equal of another. Even an interpretation can alter one way or the other, depending on the acoustics.
Are you a musician or a pianist?
Well……. I’m also a composer! [He eludes the question with a big grin. He deserves to have gotten away with that. As if to prove the point, he encored one of his own pieces at the subsequent concert.]