Last night, Daniil Trifonov played two firsts on a once-played piano

The white lettering of Fazioli shone out across the Wigmore Hall.

The foremost pianist of the new generation, winner of the Tchaikovsky competition, is not a Steinway artist. He plays as he pleases. Steinway sometimes, Fazioli when he sees fit and he’s thinking of test-driving the recharged Blüthner.

Last night, he strode out on stage and ripped off a Stravinsky Serenade at speeds and power the composer could never have imagined when he wrote the piece for his own non-virtuosic hands in 1925. Trifonov followed up with shimmering contrasts of Debussy’s Image and four of Ravel’s Miroirs. Later, he chuckled that he had never played the Stravinsky or the Ravel in public before. ‘And the Schumann Symphonic Etudes (after the interval) was only my second time. First was two nights ago in the Concertgebouw.’

I asked him about the encores, vaguely familiar but resisting my attempts to name them. ‘They were my compositions,’ beamed Daniil. ‘Called Rachmaniana, and written in my first years in Cleveland, when I was homesick for Russia.’

 

trifonov dg

At 22 years old, Daniil Trifonov is on a roll of first experiences and not letting them go to his head. For each performance, he picks the piano that best suits his physical needs and won’t be reduced to matchsticks.

The new Fazioli had, it turned out, only been played once before. That was by Boris Giltburg, possibly Trifonov’s only rival in the 20-somethings.

Not good news for Steinway.

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Or, as it turned out, for the BBC.

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  • A 20-something who can give Trifonov and Giltburg a run for their money: Nikita Mndoyants! And if you want to stretch to 30: Vyecheslav Gryaznov! Check them out, piano lovers. (Youtube: FestivalWissembourg)

  • Good for him! It’s a shame that the different sound worlds of a Bluthner, Fazioli, Bosendorfer or Yamaha are not heard more often in the world’s concert halls. Steinway’s ubiquity is an unfortunate result of their impressive but hugely expensive PR campaigns.

  • The Canadian Bach specialist Angela Hewitt has been playing Fazioli pianos for quite some time now. I do not think she is that happy when she has to make do with a Steinway. It’s a good thing that she doesn’t have to buy a second ticket on the plane for her instrument.

  • These are all terrific artists, but there are certainly others too. Yuja Wang, after all, is still in her twenties and is higher profile than any except maybe Trifanov. And Conrad Tao is not even 20 yet.

  • Steinway’s pre-eminent position rests on its quality. Period!

    From Padereski, Hofmann, Rachmaninof through today.

    You forgot Jan Lisiecki and the third prize winner in Warsaw…

    Of course there are other excellent instruments which have been named.Barenboim and Argerich did very well two nights ago on the splendid Steinway in the KS, Philharmonie, Berlin…..

    • Dear CHRISTOPHER CZAJA SAGER,
      I’m sorry but you are quite wrong: Rachmaninov had a Blüthner in which he composed ALL of his piano works. Unfortunately, when Steinway decided to go for their business and against music, they convinced Rachmaninov to change his piano….AND HE STOPPED COMPOSING til his death.
      Debussy, Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, had Blüthner pianos in which they also composed their music
      Apart from this, in 1943, Blüthner, as well as Bechstein, Erard (inventor of the repetition action), Gaveau, Pleyel and ALL the piano factories spreaded in Europe were bombed up to destruction. Only Steinway factory WAS NOT BOMBED that day…STRANGE isn’t it?
      The supremacy of Steinway resides not only in quality but because they stand as the only one (Blüthner (after reconstruction) and Bechstein (archirivals between the three) stayed on the other side of the wall.
      If Steinway’s quality were SO outstanding, I would like to ask you why then there are new competitors: Blüthner and Bechstein again, Yamaha, Bössendorfer and Fazioli?
      The answer is simple: Steinway is not the only one and not the best!

  • “You forgot Jan Lisiecki and the third prize winner in Warsaw…”

    The third prize in Warsaw in 2010 went to Daniil Trifonov who also played a Fazioli there. The list of Fazioli artists reads like a “Who’s Who” of concert pianists, most of whom are also on the Steinway list (or were at some time).

  • oops, I meant the last Queen Elizabeth, Bruxelles !

    For me and collegues the Third Prize might have been better given to the Third Prize, a Pole, MB, who played a most expressive 2nd Partita BWV 826, the best Beethoven of the three, a mature Opus 110, and a compelling poetic and masculine Rachmaninoff 3rd. I enjoy the playing of Trifonov and Lisiecki very much. They both are musicians of unusual individuality and humility: the music comes first and is still personal, both of the artists the magic of their own sonority coupled with complete command of the instrument, virtuosi in the best and original meaning of the word.As to instruments, we might also include the unusually responsive Steingräber u.Söhne concert instruments.I heard a splendid recital in Bayreuth played by Marc-Andre Hamelin, a Steinway artist,too. There is very good reeason why Steinway is preferred by the overwhelming majority of pianists performing for the last 100 years……

    • “I heard a splendid recital in Bayreuth played by Marc-Andre Hamelin, a Steinway artist,too.”

      And frequent performer on Yamaha as well. Of course, M.-A. H. can make ANY piano sound good!

  • Bravo to Mr. Trifonov! It’s nice to hear about a pianist who is not bound to Steinway. Another is Garrick Ohlsson, who owns a variety of pianos. My one suggestion to him is to try a Mason & Hamlin. Before WW 1 Mason & Hamlin was Steinway’s principle competitor. The eve sponsored Rachmaninoff for his first American tour. Since that time Mason & Hamlin has faded, but the old firm has been revived and it would be interesting to hear Mr. Trifonov emoting on a, say, Mason & Hamlin model BB.

  • Daniil is a fantastic pianist! No doubts, he has an outstanding piano technique and he brings many new colours into each composition he plays. His repertoire is very impressive and he still surprises me with his mature interpretation and playing of many really difficult pieces. He is very young and charismatic… but what also makes him DIFFERENT from all his young rivals (e.g. Giltburg) is that he composes! and his music is brilliant!

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