Daniil Trifonov: Bach for bon vivants

by time news

WITHwhite galactic phenomena. Igor Levit, born on March 10, 1987 in what was then Gorky, and Daniil Trifonov, born on March 5, 1991 in the same city on the Volga, now called Nizhny Novgorod as it used to be. Both piano stars have not lived there for a long time. One is naturalized in Germany, first Hanover, now Berlin; the other lives in New York.

They couldn’t be more different, these soloists only four years away, in terms of their habitus, their repertoire, their approach to the piano. The one casually dressed in black, bubbling over, hugging the world. The other in a suit, bulky, taciturn, poetically absorbed. And yet they are the most exciting creative poles of their post-Soviet generation on the 88 black and white keys. What they have in common: the will to play, to abandon and even the wings. Trifonov has already rehearsed Levit’s in the Berlin Philharmonic.

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Levit, the cyclist, Beethoven complete sonatas tourer, has just released a triple album on Sony with Shostakovich’s 24 preludes and fugues as well as the absurd, also incredibly difficult “Passacaglia on DSCH” by Robert Stevenson. As a “combination of warmth, immediacy and pure loneliness” – the superlative addict doesn’t do it below that.

A month later, Trifonov, who also composed late-romanticism and who most recently dedicated himself to the silver age of Russian piano with Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Scriabin, replied, of course by pure coincidence, with a double album on Deutsche Grammophon: “Bach – The Art of Life”.

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Bach’s Unfinished

The art of life. Daniil Trifonov, married, having become the father of a son in the pandemic, begins as the Bach family story, as abruptly as it is undisguised. Because he embeds the great father Johann Sebastian’s eternally awe-inspiring oeuvre in the works of his sons, in a playful sonata by Johann Christian and a lively polonaise by Wilhelm Friedemann, the refined rondo à la Johann Christoph Friedrich with 18 variations on the silly, later by Mozart like Adolphe Adam picked up songs “Ah, vous dirai-je, maman”.

And then only a selection follows from the tenderly homely, always intimate touching “Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach”, culminating in the aria adaptation “Are you with me” as well as the Brahms arrangement for the left hand of the, which Igor Levit likes to play monumental D minor Chaconne from the 2nd solo violin partita. Until finally the main work of the album, which is not only allusive in the title, is climbed: the unfinished “Art of Fugue”, BWV1080.

Daniil Trifonov

Daniil Trifonov

Those: Dario Acosta / DG

Daniil Trifonov not only skillfully completes Contrapunctus 14 as a triple fugue. As a finale, apotheosis and return to normal mortals, he adds the cantata chorale “Jesus remains my joy” in the piano arrangement by Myra Hess; currently his most beloved encore piece.

It is pure joy to hear such things, it touches the feelings and enlivens the spirit. Because it sounds so natural and yet considered, never comes across as intellectual brooding, but rather fulfilling in a happy and curious way. The very big things are circled around and circled, but mastered without buckling – so incidentally and yet always wide awake. Trifonov succeeds in the paradox of demanding as well as directing listening with attentive relaxation and yet not degenerating into audio work, but also turning it into pure enjoyment.

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Russian pianists and Bach, that’s not an easy story, and certainly not one with love at the first keystroke. There was the factual Tatiana Nikolaevna (who dedicated his preludes and fugues to Shostakovich), the idiosyncratic Emil Giles, the sovereign Svyatoslaw Richter with the German father, who knew how to combine structure and complexity with feeling and – yes? Daniil Trifonov. Who is now in search of Bach, the person behind the myth, as honestly as it is simple – and who does not want to see the composer’s emotional side separated from the spiritual sphere of higher polyphony, which continues to stimulate the numerical and musicological discourses to this day.

A heavenly harmony, one heavenly harmony, proceeds from this album, it enchants, and it begins a discourse. It speaks through the sympathetic, yet grandiose subdued approach and communicates in a new, open way. The BACH, finally rising in its own tone monogram, in the midst of his own at human eye level: the art of living. You can hear it believe it.

Daniil Trifonov: Bach – The Art of Life. (Deutsche Grammophon)

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