And the Karajan gold goes to….

And the Karajan gold goes to….


norman lebrecht

April 13, 2017

Daniil Trifonov is the first recipient of the 50,000 Euro prize, awarded today in Salzburg (it was previously based in Baden-Baden).

Next year’s winner has already been chosen. It’s the cellist Sol Gabetta.

What either of them has to do with HvK is mysterious.

True, old Herbie liked working with Evgeny Kissin, who has much in common with Trifonov.

But he never worked with Jackie du Pre or other young female cellists, so far as we can remember.



  • Petros Linardos says:

    Karajan may have not worked with any female cellist, but in the 1970’s he essentially launched the career of a then teenage violinist, named Anne Sofie Mutter.

    Also, he clashed with the BPO in 1982 in favor of clarinetist Sabine Meyer. She was turned down by the players after her probation period, and went on to have a great career.

    • NYMike says:

      HvK’s clash with the BPO over his hiring of Sabine Meyer was over his attempt to circumvent their rules that THEY choose new musicians, not the conductor. It had nothing to do with her playing, her gender or her personally.

      • Petros Linardos says:

        If Karajan was fighting the rules, wasn’t he doing so because he wanted Meyer in the BPO? My point was that while gender did not get in the way of Karajan’s selection of protegees. Mutter could definitely count as one, and I don’t see why Meyer could not. Am I misunderstanding something in Meyer’s case?

  • Max Grimm says:

    What either of them has to do with HvK is mysterious.

    The prize is named for Herbert von Karajan, as a “tribute to his lifelong commitment to fostering and promoting young talented musicians”. Those who receive the prize, don’t receive it for any connection to HvK but because they have supported up-and-coming musicians or have worked to further musical youth development programs, promoting the awareness and appreciation of classical music in the process.
    The €50.000 in its entirety “must be used by the recipient to help further the careers of young musicians”. For example, last year’s recipient was Thomas Hengelbrock, whose €50.000 went to scholarships for the Academy of the Balthasar Neumann Ensemble & Choir.

    • Bruce says:

      I really like the idea of a prize where the recipient is required to use the money to help others. (Especially when the recipient is already famous and doesn’t need the money/recognition)

      Itzhak Perlman wrote a really good article on this after receiving that $1 million prize whose name I forget. NL linked to it on here a few months ago.

      • Jeffrey Biegel says:

        Congratulations to these fine artists on this prize! If, in fact, the KvK prize is intended for the recipient to help young musicians, one might help young musicians get new works commissioned for them by composers throughout the world. (I have one student in NY who I helped start a new commissioning project with one of the most respected composers of our time, and is seeking funding. Never an easy challenge, but can be done with persistence and good contacts. No doubt a prize like the HvK would help tremendously to help bring new music to the repertoire.)

  • Olassus says:

    Can’t think of much that Kissin and Trifonov have in common besides the piano and being Russian.

    Kissin never offers idiosyncratic views.

  • M2N2K says:

    Besides both of them being superb pianists who were born in Russia, there is not much in common between Kissin and Trifonov.

    • erich says:

      If Karajan had heard him charging and banging his way through a Mozart concerto in Salzburg this week like a human typewriter, he’d probably have taken the money back!

      • Olassus says:

        Wasn’t there but can imagine Trifonov’s Mozart as a real horror.

        But I like him!

        • anmarie says:

          The originality of this genius is far more fascinating than perfection. IMHO, of course.

        • Sue says:

          Somebody HAS to do something about those tired old Mozart concertos! All that prettiness, perfection and endless consonant tonality absolutely bored me rigid. It’s all so twee. Great entree for those new to serious music, though.

          Go “The Triff”!!!

      • M2N2K says:

        That is very surprising for me because so far I have never heard anything that is even close to “charging and banging” in Trifonov’s performances.

        • Bo says:

          Me neither, and I’ve been to 3 concerts. I’ve disagreed with some of his interpretations, but I’ve never heard any banging.

  • Ungeheuer says:

    Well deserved. I’d also nominate Igor Levit, Beatrice Rana and Rafal Blechacz.

    • Leonardo says:

      Absolutely. Igor Levit is without a doubt the greatest young pianist on the scene today. He deserved the award more than Trifonov, in my opinion. Levit’s programming and range of repertoire are incredible. And his playing is out of this world.

      • anonymous says:

        Wait for Trifonov to play an entire post-1900 program next season, including Stockhausen, Ligeti, Adams, and Ades. You’ll forget that uninspired Rzewski Levit put out.

  • Steinway Fanatic says:

    Highly inaccurate to say that Kissin has anything in common with Trifanov. Trifanov needed to enter 3 international competitions just to get attention, whereas Kissin captured worldwide attention with a single concert when he was only 12 years old.

    • M2N2K says:

      Yes, at 12 years old Kissin was more of a typical wunderkind than Trifonov was, but that does not mean that the latter is a lesser musician as an adult or that he does not deserve that his last name be spelled correctly.

      • Steinway Fanatic says:

        His name is transliterated- So there is no “correct” spelling. Did you ever notice how many “correct” spellings of Rakhmaninov are out there? And it’s perfectly valid to assume that TriFOnov is a notch below Kissin, just as you assume they are equals. Opinions vary depending on the level of ones expertise. So no need for you to pass judgement on Claire Edelstein’s opinion.

        • M2N2K says:

          Unlike the case with Рахманинов, there is only one correctly accepted spelling of Трифонов in English language so far, which by the way is not a mere transliteration but instead is as precise a reproduction of Russian spelling in Latin alphabet as is possible. There is no assumption expressed or implied in any of my comments here about the two pianists being equal or not. There is only a statement that comparative qualities of two 12-year-olds does not necessarily determine their comparative quality as adult artists. It is no more “valid” to prefer one of them over the other than it is to do the opposite. And my response to Claire Edelstein has nothing to do with any kind of need but is simply an expression of my opinion as are most of this blog’s comments.

  • Claire Edelstein says:

    Both Kissin and Trifonov are splendid pianists of Russian school. They are impecable technically and both bring interpretations that are refreshing to the intellect, result of a complex process of spiritual maturity. They have great respect for the music they play and their public. They are gut musicians who are marked by genius and probably inspired by a higher entity.

    • M2N2K says:

      Your first sentence covers it all; the rest is just cliches and generalities. One might as well say that they both have ten fingers, ten toes and two ears – per person that is. When a statement is made that two outstanding musicians have “much in common”, it should mean something more specific – certain qualities that make the two of them similar, but at the same time differentiates them from all, or at least most, other “splendid pianists”.

    • Sue says:

      Well said, Claire, thank you. Totally agree.