Just in: Star pianist joins board of the New York Philharmonic

This is major.

It has been announced that Daniil Trifonov, winner of the last-but-one Tchaikovsky Competition, has become a director of the New York Philarmonic.

The rest of the board represent big money. Daniil has all the notes. And a raincoat.

Release below.

daniil trifonov

Pianist Daniil Trifonov, the 24-year-old Russian pianist who is beginning his final week as the spotlighted soloist in the three-week Rachmaninoff: A Philharmonic Festival, has joined the Board of Directors of the New York Philharmonic, elected on November 13, 2015.

The Philharmonic’s relationship with Daniil Trifonov began with his Philharmonic debut in the 2012–13 season, when, at the age of 21, he performed Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3, led by Music Director Alan Gilbert.  The Philharmonic invited Mr. Trifonov to return in the 2014–15 season to perform Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 1, led by Juanjo Mena. Mr. Trifonov is the featured soloist in Rachmaninoff: A Philharmonic Festival, taking place throughout November 2015, in which he performs Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concertos Nos. 2, 3, and 4 and Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, in addition to a chamber program featuring Mr. Trifonov alongside Musicians from the New York Philharmonic.

“Daniil Trifonov will be an outstanding addition to the New York Philharmonic Board of Directors,” said Chairman Oscar S. Schafer. “He is a brilliant pianist who, since his debut in 2012, has thrilled our audiences and established a strong rapport with our musicians that critics and audiences have noticed. His insights as a young musician who travels the world will bring an immensely valuable perspective to the Board at a time of growth and expansion for the Orchestra.” Daniil Trifonov joins Joshua Bell, Yefim Bronfman, and Itzhak Perlman as musicians on the Board with whom the New York Philharmonic has closely collaborated.

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  • It speaks to the sorry state of American orchestras that while their boards seek superstar musicians (nothing wrong with that per se), no board includes its own music director. What a slap in the face to the guy their hire as their chief music officer. So the NY Phil thinks a 24 year old has more insight into classical music and the industry than their 48 year old music director. If true, that’s sad, if false, then it’s definitely sad that Gilbert is trumped by Trifonov, so either way, sad, sad, sad.

      • Whether it would be allowed under NY’s laws, I know not. And whether they operate under laws of incorporation or those for non-profit societies may make a difference. But among non-profits, the experienced know that it’s an elementary error not to have the artistic director (by whatever name) on your board. By doing so, a multitude of unnecessary conflicts may be avoided down the road. I happily sat on the boards of five NPs, but declined to join the one that I found did not include the AD. This is true, mutatis mutandis, of any NP, regardless of its raison d’etre, artistic or other.

    • By definition, a board oversees the activities of an organization but doesn’t do the activities.

      The music director (and hired musicians) ARE the activity they oversee. It’s a bit like the checks and balances of government, like how Congress has oversight of activities of the executive branch.

      It’s a division of powers.

      • By definition? How, then, to explain that orchestral members routinely have one seat on the Board, the members’ representative? Why is it that wise and experienced boards include the AD of any Arts organization? This they do, so obviously the make-up of a board is not set in stone, not definite in composition. What it does should be made very clear, and what it does is the very reason the AD should be on there. There have been famous cases of boards that took upon themselves programming, and without the AD or a rep of orchestra members there, horrors have ensued. I hope no one is assuming that board members necessarily know classical music. Your ‘definition’ and reference to ‘hired musicians’ make me suspect you view this as highly hierarchical, and that is not the way to go, either.

  • I agree with Herrera: Why the NYP should imagine that a 24-year old pianist possesses the business and organizational experience necessary to act as a director beggars belief. In any case Trifonov, highly talented a young pianist as he is, still has an awful lot of musical maturing and development to undergo, at any rate if he wants to play in the same league as that other young super-talent, Benjamin Grosvenor. To my mind Trifonov is seriously over-hyped. I offer one example: his recent recording of Rachmaninov Variations. His rendition of the Chopin Variations is a case in point: far too rushed on the whole, in young “virtuoso” mode of playing as fast as possible, thus sweeping aside most of the beauties contained in this set of variations. Inexplicably, too, he omits a whole chunk of the variations, including one of the loveliest (I’m not speaking of the couple of variations which Rachmaninov himself marked as obligatory). In Trifonov’s hands the final variation is just an indeterminate and hurried mess. A listening to Jorge Bolet’s fine recording of the Chopins would be highly instructive for him (although Bolet does spoil an otherwise fine performance by an incredibly ponderous finale).

    • I think you’ve got it completely backwards. Grosvenor’s attempt at mature chamber music the other day from the Louvre (Brahms op 34 an Dvorak A major quintet) was pretty flat and superficial. No depth of sound, no apparent understanding of structure — even some of the lines had random accents and lack of meaningful direction. He could stand to learn from Trifonov. You won’t hear too many 20somes tackling that Rach 3 ossia cadenza with the sense of epic struggle he conveys. Certainly Grosvenor couldn’t handle anything in such a Richter-esque manner. He seems more apt in the lighter, showcase fare – the dances CD is a good example. Even the Bach partita on there is too mannered.
      But hey, if that’s what floats your boat.

  • While they may be relatively too young, it is still a good thing that such young artists have a voice in the board room. It would not hurt neither to build up the network of donors thru the more senior board members.

    BTW Lang Lang is on Carnegie Hall’s board.

    • It’s a fad. Remember when the UN has its first celebrity “goodwill ambassador” (some hot Hollywood type), then every other UN agency had to have one, then every NGO had to have one, now every non-profit has got one.

      Celebrities love to be connected to a cause, and boards love that the celebrities will do it for free.

      Same with orchestra boards. People with money are tired of sitting next to other people with money, they want to sit next to a star.

  • Perhaps he and Bell will give a 7th , Ave subway joint recital…. Bell can teach
    the art of subway playing to the Quasimodo of the piano ,

    • Some of us are trying to do a lot more than naysaying. Herrera and Furzwangler are, I suspect, like myself — we’ve done this, we’ve had doings with boards, certainly in my case sat on them. Other than those I was directly involved with, I had much to do at arm’s length with the Board of a major SO, and that one was a horror show. The membership of a board must be chosen with immense care — look at the person, not just their bank account. The person, not just their degrees (I’m thinking of CEOs with MBAs and not a fig of knowledge of music or psychology). People who listen, and think about to whom they are listening. No egomaniacs. No hidden agendas. Etc., etc. It’s a long list. Thinking back to my years on boards, I mull that if a member suggested someone of the ilk of Trifinov be invited onto the Board, my question would be, “And why?” If we wanted a guest musical member, I think now off the cuff of two who are local, extremely experienced, much involved and knowledgeable in the City. I just can’t think of what Trifinov might have to offer. But I must always return to the point that the AD of the orchestra should be on the Board, if the local laws regulations allow it. Those laws here do. As I mentioned, one seat is reserved for the elected orchestra’s representative. There should be one for the AD.

      • I, for one, think Trifonov fits all your criteria; a bit young, yes, but he has lived and created music since he was a boy, and has been respected for his art by quite a few knowledgeable people. Young and extremely passionate can be interesting in combination with old and collected.

  • Daniil’s interpretations and performances of Rachmaninoff are so good – and emotive – that he is precisely the type of artist who should be on the NYP Board

    • I can’t for the life of me fathom the reasoning behind this. Trifonov’s appointment, as also Lang Lang’s, is all about hobnobbing and fund-raising. I can think of immensely renowned performers of Rachmaninov whose appointment to just about any board I’d consider hilarious. Rachmaninov himself was decidedly tacturn, though Moiseiwitsch was so much more so he was practically mute. But the point is that Trifinov is not on the Board to play the piano. He’s there to talk to people with huge quantities of loot, make their chests puff out even more, and get out the cheque book. If it were about decisions taken by the Board — lawdy, I can think of a small horde of performers who are experienced and who are also thinkers, the latter very likely making them the voice of reason on any board.

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