This past Sunday, the Shriver Hall Concert Series livestreamed Daniil Trifonov’s pre-recorded piano program from New York's 92nd Street Y. The virtually delivered event was a success, with over 200 live attendees from around the world — highlighting Trifonov’s international presence.
The Times referred to the Trifonov as, “without question the most astounding young pianist of our age.” He won Musical America’s 2019 Artist of the Year and is not only a pianist, but also a composer. Trifonov’s previous two concerts, hosted by the Shriver Hall Concert Series, were both sold-out events, which speaks to his popularity with students on campus.
Trifonov’s program on Sunday included works from three composers. With hunched shoulders and delicate fingers pressing the piano keys, he began the concert with Claude Debussy’s Pour le piano. The notes seamlessly flowed to form a soft melody.
Sophomore Jihyun Hwang attended the event and was impressed with Trifonov’s artistry.
“The synergy that Debussy and Trifonov created during the first part of the concert had me dreaming, especially during the third movement of Pour le piano, ‘Toccata,‘“ Hwang said.
The livestreamed concert enabled a live chat feature, allowing attendees to communicate with each other. However, despite the delight in being able to attend the famous pianist’s concert, several students expressed their disappointment in their inability to see Trifonov’s facial expressions.
Facial expression in classical music is crucial for conveying the musical interpretations from the performer, including pianists such as Trifonov. The common disappointment among the viewers highlighted the downside of having to use masks during live performance for COVID-19 safety.
As a result, the audience shifted their attention to Trifonov’s hands on the keyboard and the movement of his body. Trifonov made a distinct transition into Sergei Prokofiev’s Sarcasms, Op. 17 with heavy, pounding notes. In the middle of playing Sarcasms’ fifth movement “Precipitosissimo,“ Trifonov demonstrated a unique style of performance which appeared like he was brushing notes off the piano.
“By using the brush-like technique, Trifonov made a definite contrast between the quiet part of the fifth movement with the louder parts of the movement,” Hwang said. “He combined and accentuated the erratic and hectic atmosphere that is found across Prokofiev's earlier works like Sarcasms.”
Throughout the concert, Trifonov maintained a striking balance between his left and right hand, resulting in detailed control over the supporting bass and melody. The pianist embarked on the last piece of his program with deep and colorful chords that came through the screen.
Sophomore Danny Lee appreciated Trifonov’s ability to craft the mood of each movement.
“The transition from ominous to an energetic passage at the end of [Johannes] Brahms’ piece was most notable in my memory,” Lee said. “During the whole concert, I was impressed by how Trifonov shaped the unique mood of each movement within each piece.”
With his consistent, energetic playing, Trifonov ended the concert with a brilliantly sustained set of F major chords, creating the signature heavy sound commonly heard in the works of Brahms. And with a bow, the pianist signaled the end of his concert.
Shriver Hall Concert Series hosted an Artist Q&A session with Trifonov following the concert. In what appeared to be a Zoom interview format, Trifonov was asked a series of questions that encouraged him to comment on his life as a pianist. The music virtuoso revealed how he started as a composer and transitioned into playing the piano. He mentioned that he learned the pieces for Brahms and Debussy for Sunday’s program during the pandemic.
Since his success as the first-prize winner of the 2011 Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition, Trifonov noted that he has enjoyed visiting different countries while gaining experience through performing on multiple stages during the past 10 years.
When asked about the unexpected joys that the pandemic brought him, Trifonov answered that he had the chance to spend more time with his family. He also noted that the recent birth of his son during the pandemic brought a significant change to his life.
Trifonov’s charismatic and captivating piano performance reminded me of the beauty in classical music. A silver lining to the pandemic could be that I can watch a world famous pianist’s concert live from home, which was impossible during pre-COVID-19 times, unless I went on YouTube to watch past performances.
Watching a live classical piano performance during the weekends is one of my favorite decompressing methods and is also one I would recommend for Hopkins students. Why not watch a quality classical music performance, provided for free?