Photo: Glenn Dicterow’s life talk at the Atrium
It isn’t actually until the end of the 2013-2014 season that Glenn Dicterow, current concert master of the New York Philharmonic will answer his call from LA’s USC Thornton faculty, but New Yorkers are already paying tribute to one of the New York Philharmonic’s most iconic figures who, after a run of now 32 consecutive years, will be sorely missed.
It was impossible not to acknowledge Dicterow’s friendly, well-tempered and round face, and his omnipresent fatherly authority. Always ready for a little joke, a kind comment, he seems to have been perpetually present on the first chair between the conductor’s podium and the rest of the string sections, maintaining peace for the ensemble, and keeping the communication flowing.
Dicterow will be the first artist to hold the newly dedicated Robert Mann Chair in Strings and Chamber Music, established by Alfred Mann to honor his brother’s achievements as founder and first violinist of the renowned Juilliard String Quartet.
Dicterow and his wife, violist Karen Dreyfus, with whom he and Cellist Inbal Segev perform as the Amerigo-Trio, will be joining the faculty at Thornton as well. The two will be a welcome addition to a host of exceptional artists including Midori Goto, who holds the Jascha Heifetz Chair in Violin at USC. Photo: Amerigo Trio
Heifetz was one of Dicterow’s influential teachers, who Dicterow was privileged to meet as a teenager growing up in Los Angeles. Dicterow’s father, Harold Dicterow, was principal player in the second violin section of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra for 52 years. At age 11, Glenn performed Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto under Zubin Mehta with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Dicterow spent several years as an associate- and then concertmaster at the Los Angeles Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta, and later became concert master of the New York Philharmonic also under the direction of Zubin Mehta in 1980. The other great influence in his life was his teacher Ivan Galamian, whom he worked with at Juilliard in Galamian’s famous studio that included Yitzchak Perlman.
Dicterow made it a rule to always dedicate some of his time to external engagements apart from appearing as a soloist with the New York Philharmonic and other orchestras, and playing chamber music. He has also been able to maintain a teaching position at the Manhattan School of Music and the Juilliard School, and he has been able to recruit some of the New York Philharmonic’s orchestral musicians from his talented group of students.
On November 5th,Dicterow gave a charming talk at the public Atrium Space (61 West 62 Street). It became quite obvious that his qualifications for the position he had held for so long did not exclusively lie with his extraordinary gift for playing the violin, but also included his personal and vivid understanding of the role of a concert master.
- Glenn Dicterow and Ilona Oltuski
“When I received the proposal, it was at a moment in time when I could not refuse. After 34 great years, I will hopefully be leaving with my reputation fully intact,“ he beams gregariously. I suppose it was that sense of humor that brought him through the long chain of fluctuating directors, all with different characters and ego. From the flamboyant Bernstein, to Mehta “who was like a surgeon with his hands, so exact, you could not possibly misunderstand his downbeats…” to Masur, a “master of the old school,” who was perhaps personally controversially received, but changed the sound of the entire orchestra to a more German, darker sound, since he was not afraid to tone the brass players down.” Dicterow continued with times ‘served’ under the stern but “tremendously gifted Maazel” whom “you had to know how to take, but we got along great,” up to current, much younger Alan Gilbert. Dicterow has managed to get along with them all, creating professional relationships based on great mutual respect. His main objective is to be perceptive, and to be able to communicate between the conductor and the sections, almost as a second conductor.
“I have to play in a way the others see what I am doing.” In an orchestra, you can’t just rely on sound, or there will be delays. You have to exist in the moment – the movement of the sections must come simultaneously and that effort depends as much on the eyes as it does the ears, perhaps even more so. I had the pleasure to interview Dicterow in 2010, at which time he explained even more about the role of the concert master, including the need to arrange bowing marks in the musical scores of the entire orchestra according to certain decisions made in rehearsals and seating arrangements. Dicterow’s responsibilities also include sitting in on various committees responsible for admissions, artistic direction, and planning. The hardest part for him, though, was an element of performance, specifically when he was required to suddenly play challenging solo sections within large orchestral works like in the New York Philharmonic’s recent performance of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade. These moments are the most personal: “Alan said lately sometimes to me, ‘oh Glenn, this is the last time you will be playing this and this is the last time you will be playing that, just relish the moment!’ …and I do, indeed.”
Dicterow will be performing as a soloist with Cellist Alisa Weilerstein, Brahms ‘ Double Concerto for Violin and Cello with the New York Philharmonic under the baton of Director Emeritus Kurt Masur November 8th – 10th and 13th.
If one listens to some of the Piano Mavens in attendance at Russian pianist Nikolai Lugansky’s recent performance of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30 at Avery Fisher Hall, it would seem that he did not show enough feeling.
Although Lugansky played the concerto alongside the New York Philharmonic under the baton of Charles Dutoit with utmost technical perfection, some critics complained. “He was too fast!” “It was too cold, too mechanic,” and “not luscious enough – and Rachmaninoff can be soo luscious!” were some comments within New York’s community of concert attendees, most of whom play piano at different levels themselves.
Critique from one’s ‘own rows’ is certainly not to be taken lightly, though I wonder why I experienced the concert so differently from many of these critics. After the piece, the applause of the general audience seemed overwhelmingly devoted.
The concert took place on November 2nd in the aftermath of Sandy, a storm that had devastated many regions of the Tri- State area, leaving half of Manhattan without electricity and subway connections, yet many concert-goers braved the turbulent moods of nature out of respect to Dutoit’s legacy, and that of Lugansky, for whom this performance marked a New York debut; was it perhaps because of this psychologically fragile situation, New Yorkers demanded a more emotionally affecting response?
The hall was not at all filled to capacity, perhaps adding to the performance’s somewhat “cold” acoustics , dampening the piano’s ability to project lusciously, a situation on which Lugansky himself commented, at our meeting the next morning. Read the rest of this entry »
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On October 25th, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra gave a sold out concert at Carnegie Hall, performing under the baton of Maestro Zubin Mehta, a program of some of Judaism’s most spiritual works, demonstrating their undyingly righteous, cultural eminence.
Despite a small group of Anti-Israel protesters that had accumulated across the 57th Street entrance, rallied by
Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel through various press releases, spirits were high inside the hall as the orchestra opened with the Star-Spangled Banner, followed by Hatikva.
The Benefit event, organized by the American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra will support the orchestra’s touring and educational programming, as well as the renovation of its home at Tel Aviv’s Heichal Ha’Tarbut, to be inaugurated in May of 2013.
The program of Arnold Schoenberg’s Kol Nidre and Noam Sheriff’s Mechaye Hametim (Revival of the Dead) had already gained broad recognition at the 2012 Salzburger Festspiele, especially with baritone Thomas Hampson’s leading presence, which had been described by New York Times’ James R.Oestreich, as: “virtually embodying an Old Testament Prophet.”Out of the two works, Kol Nidre is the better known one, yet Sheriff’s symphonic work(NY premiere), commissioned in remembrance of the Holocaust and at the same time a tribute to Jewish culture and national pride proved to be a very organic structure. It incorporated and built upon many different musical motives. Joining Hampson and the Collegiate Chorale were the Manhattan Girls Chorus and Israeli tenor Carl Hieger, all of whom performed in the Hebrew and Yiddish production, with the composer present.
The original program had been adjusted to include these pieces for the New York event due to their great acclaim in Salzburg and partially because the Collegiate Chorale, founded by Robert Shaw in 1941 and currently directed by James Bagwell, was already present.
In the midst of both Judaic spiritual works, the 25 year old Yuja Wang poured her stupendous virtuosity into Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No.1 in G minor, op.25. Trumping her first Encore, Rossini-Ginsburg Figaro’s Aria with an even wilder, magnificently Horowitz- inspired Carmen; she had a gasping audience in her hands. Dressed in red, the audience was able to marvel at her whirlwind arm-and finger movements, emanating from her lean and muscular back. As with the choreography of an Olympian swimmer her moves were small, controlled and superfast.
Though always charming, Zubin Mehta, who has guided the greatest of performers during his now more than 50 years as conductor (he is music director for life with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra), seemed genuinely impressed with his phenomenally skilled, season’s star debutante.
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Klara Min does not seem to get nervous easily. I learned this while sitting in on an interview / conversation with recording producer Leszek Wojcik for the release of her Chopin Mazurkasdisk, which Delos will put out next spring. Wojcik had been guiding Min since 2011, when she made her very first recording of Korean composers for the Naxos label. Both disks were recorded at the same studio at the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
When comparing both recordings, which indeed find themselves at juxtaposed ends of the repertoire, Wojcik shares his surprise at how“Western” the previously recorded Korean compositions actually sound. “I was expecting a big pentatonic thing, some feelings of folk tunes. Instead there was rather an affinity to the Second Viennese School, Schoenberg and Webern…yet the Mazurkas could not be more contrasting to their rather academic, complex and almost Germanic structure …. here is a complete change of temperament,” he says and adds, speaking to Min, ”You were very brave to tackle such an undertaking. The Mazurkas are such known pieces, dear to everyone’s heart and they are so often recorded, and yet they can be interpreted in so many different ways.”
Min made her own choices in her recording and seems confident about them. “I was immediately drawn to the Mazurkas,” she shares,“when I was still a child, reading through the entire volume. Only later I listened to many different recordings. The music sounds so simple, but it is the most complicated music to perform. Its rhythm has to come sort of naturally; it can’t be really studied too much”. Each mazurka is so individual, idiosyncratic, each with its own polyphony and complex harmonies, yet you can’t practice endlessly- you somehow have to preserve the freshness and spontaneity for the deliverance of its true characteristics.”
Photo: Wojcik and Min
Wojcik, who has clearly enjoyed recording Min’s playing, agrees with her and adds: ”Yes, exactly, this is the key. They are highly abstract, even though of course they have the nationalist thematic and are based on the dance’s three main forms: the mazur, oberek and the kujawiak from Poland, from different geographic regions in Poland. They’re not inspired by folk music, as often thought, really. Despite some rhythmic resemblances and perhaps the repetitiveness of motives kept by Chopin, his Mazurkas are highly stylized – salon versions- with complex compositional elements. And you are absolutely right; their simplicity demands a certain natural gusto. And balance of playing straight forward and the use of rubato. And there are so many choices to make by the performer, according to his/her personal tastes.” Read the rest of this entry »
Yael Weiss possesses a rare commitment that compels her to recognize her responsibility as a performer in her daily existence. “Even if I am by myself, it is absolutely essential that I always try my best to be precise in uncovering the intention of the composer, to find the meaning behind the notes,” she says. “There is thinking about music happening at every moment during practicing and of course on stage, a never ending search for the truth in the music – the reason why a particular piece was conceived as is.”
In music, the exchange of the written score between the artist and the listener happens in real time, unlike in other arts. “It’s the realization through performance in that moment, that makes the performer such an integral part of the equation – the other part being the listener,” Weiss marvels. “A score, sitting in a library is not music yet; those black specs sitting on paper are not yet realized. They are just pointers to multiple layers that indicate the ideas about a specific sound, and beyond that, to a certain message that needs to be conveyed to the listener. So it is this realization of the actual notes into sound and the interpretation of the meaning behind those notes that I do every day when I am at the keyboard.”
As in real life, there should be a give and take in a musical experience. Weiss does not hesitate to put some of the responsibility for the success of a performance on the listener, an approach that should not be taken for granted, given the passive role audiences are generally accustomed to. Weiss, however, sees the interaction of performer and listener as a true dialogue: “I believe every performer will tell you that the performer’s music making grows and benefits from being on stage in front of people. The level of concentration, openness and attentiveness on the listener’s part affects the end result tremendously. It’s a shared experience, the realization of a joint purpose, the realization of the written score.” Read the rest of this entry »
Classes, given by the most admired masters in their field, are considered one of the most direct and effective way to inspire students – and fans alike. As a result of Yoheved Kaplinsky’s (chair of the piano faculty at Juilliard) initiative in this regard, this week the venerable pianist Murray Perahia took up a taped mini-residency. Ara Guzelimian (provost and dean) has shaped the series to consist of a lecture/presentation and three master classes, one of them open to public attendance. Other such residencies this season will include Richard Goode (public master class October 24th) and Leon Fleischer (public master class February 24, 2013) at Juilliard’s Paul Hall.
As I was approaching the newly constructed bridge that connects Juilliard to the larger Lincoln Center complex, I reflected upon Juilliard’s many efforts to reach out beyond its select community with such diverse programs as their social outreach performances, in addition to their own pre-college and evening division classes, and publication.
These master classes are a wonderful addition to their programs. Besides the opportunity to listen to the world-renowned performer up close and personal, the dream of every aspiring pianist of course is to unlock the secrets (are there any?) of each great performer. In these master classes, the artist can demonstrate what makes his performances so unique and successful by sharing his hands-on experiences and insightful explanations of why he endorses this implementation, and not another.
The question, for any artist, is not so much which approach may be arguably valued as the best one – there are many valid ones that are based on sheer endless variables found within the performer’s facility, technique and personality. As many discrepancies as there are in methodical pursuit of the ultimate musical result, what matters alone is that the performance is congruently convincing.
So how does then a masterful musician and generous human being, as Perahia most certainly is, convey his wisdom? What advice can he specifically give to the well-prepared musical students who play for him? Read the rest of this entry »
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The audience, having taken their seats in a large, traditional room in the American Society’s Upper East Side townhouse, waits in great anticipation for Vivian Fung’s Dreamscapes release. Andrew Cyr, the resourceful Grammy-nominated conductor and artistic director of Metropolis Ensemble, gestures for the pianist to commence the evening’s program by plucking the strings of the grand piano. Two slit-drum players from his orchestra send mystic and strangely far sounding rhythmic beats into the room from their place at the back; bird-like chirping overlaps the sounds of the drums as musicians within the audience begin playing several Vietnamese bird whistles. As Cyr directs the percussionists to steadily approach the stage area, the different voices start to unite.
Pianist Conor Hanick prepares the piano according to Fung’s notes with popsicle sticks, hairpins and paperclips, reinventing a famed practice initially championed by pianist/composer John Cage.
Even the audience gets to participate, making music with wineglasses, enjoying the fun of incorporating an “object trouvée.” Canadian-born composer Fung stands by, intently observing the audience’s reaction to her aurally and spatially captivating music, noting that the audience, while very perceptive, also looks flabbergasted at times. So begins the evening’s introduction into the creative world of the composer.
Following the performance, all of the soloists, the conductor, some members of the orchestra, and the two-time Grammy Award winning producer and sound engineer Tim Martyn, share their thoughts on the process of making this CD. Conor Hanick explains that Fung’s sound world is part of a unique genre, which brings a variety of original sound associations into contact with sounds inspired by Javanese and Balinese gamelan, and is produced with various means of instrumental adaption and in the piano’s case, an alteration of the piano’s timbre through the objects attached to its strings. Fung’s enthusiastic exploration of Indonesian gamelan has been a persistent stylistic element in the work of the young, Juilliard-trained composer, who was called “evocative” by the New York Times.
Fung’s latest CD was recently released by newly formed Naxos: Canadian Classics, which is the brainchild of Naxos’s Raymond Bisha. The disc includes three works ranging from Glimpses (2006), to the piano concerto Dreamscapes (2009). Divided into different vignettes, the Dreamscapes concerto, featuring Hanick, who is another impressive Juilliard alumn, expands on themes explored in Fung’s previous work; for example, the second vignette is based on “Kotekan” – the first movement of Glimpses. It is interesting to follow the depth and detail of Fung’s work through her different pieces, from her earliest featured composition Glimpses, to her very imaginative and organically condensed newer work. Read the rest of this entry »
“You never know what’s waiting around the corner,” says Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes about Beethoven, as he tries to describe his personal outlook on his so-called ‘Beethoven Journey’ to the intimate audience gathering at WQRX’s Greene Space Studio.
Beethoven builds up a large structure based on very simple motives that, while very organic, holds many melodic surprises. Andsnes has discovered a sort of obsession with resonance in Beethoven’s work, which is evident in his use of extremely long trills and long pedal markings, which on the modern piano ring even longer than they did on instruments in Beethoven’s time. Andsnes wonders if perhaps these preferences were caused by Beethoven’s eventual loss of hearing.
In the interview with Jeff Spurgeon, following his performance at Green Space on last Saturday afternoon, Andsnes mentioned the handwritten score of Beethoven’s famous Sonata no. 21, op. 53 (Waldstein) – a piece Andsnes is about to perform along with Sonata no. 22, op. 54. In this score of one of Beethoven’s longest sonatas, Andsnes first recognizes Beethoven’s high-energy writing, which is expressed in the speed of the composition as well as the extensive, vehement building of contrast in this oeuvre. As one of the master’s longest works, Andsnes explains that it also contains lengthy passages featuring transformations of repeating fragments that occur throughout the text, a part of a journey filled with haunting motives and building expectations; expectations that are ultimately fulfilled in the inseparably connected finale of the Waldstein. Read the rest of this entry »
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“Naxos looks forward to our 25th anniversary festivities in New York with a special signing of The Story of Naxos at the Juilliard Bookstore, a party at Steinway Hall, and several meetings with media and partners,” says Klaus Heymann, founder of Naxos and, even at 75 years old, the heartbeat of the record label empire he built.
Heymann will be present at the Julliard Store for the public book signing this Friday, September 14th, at 5 pm.
Loaded with enlightening background stories about the recording industry, The Story of Naxos, written by former classical music journalist and Naxos AudioBooks’ specialist Nicolas Soames, tells the remarkable story of Naxos’ success. The book goes into great detail about Heymann, the self-made man and music lover, as well as the rollercoaster ride of victories and setbacks that Naxos experienced as it grew, and ultimately reinvented the recording business. What started in 1987 as a Hong Kong-based budget record label has become a global institution in the classical recording industry, and the leading distribution network of classical music worldwide.
In his foreword, Klaus Heymann reflects on how Naxos has “changed the culture and industry of classical music,” and applauds the skills of those who made that happen by finding new and innovative ways of approaching their tasks, often in the face of adversity. Heymann’s words ring true to me personally, particularly when he discusses how he was only able to complete his most successful accomplishments with the help of those who believed in his goals. True entrepreneurial vision must begin with innovation, but it also requires support from a committed community and personal relations; as Heymann modestly states: “They just had faith in what I was trying to achieve.” (Photo: Sean Hickey, Composer and Naxos USA National Sales and Business Development Manager since 2002- Steinway Hall reception)
Heymann’s successful pursuit of his goals is certainly due to his own conviction, but he largely credits his triumphs to his “life inside the music” with his wife, violinist Takako Nishizaki, whose Naxos recording career is perhaps his true inspiration. I suppose it is true what they say; behind every great man is a great woman! And Heymann supported me in that by saying:”Indeed, yet even a much better woman!”
Photo: Mr. and Mrs. Klaus Heymann (Violinist Takako Nishizaki) at Steinway Hall reception for Naxos.
- Daniil Trifonov, Noam Zur
“You can’t always convince,” young Israeli conductor Noam Zur said at his North American debut, “but every performance has to make a statement.”
Known as an important educational and recreational center for the performing arts, as well as a place of spirituality, Chautauqua originated as a Sunday school, and Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra (CSO) became a professional performance ensemble in 1929. Chautauqua draws its mostly long-time members out for nine weeks, employing them for an intense schedule of 21 concerts. Part of Chautauqua’s charm in music making is that these shows craft an intimate communal experience.
- Chautauqua Amphitheatre photo:Eric Shea
Chautauqua’s unique and exemplary educational role supports an endless variety of learning experiences in a congenial atmosphere. At times, Chautauqua’s performances are also brought to a wider public through PBS and NPR broadcasts, bringing together the new, the noteworthy, and the extraordinary, and projecting it to all who care to listen.
- Chautauqua- Zur- Trifonov Photo: Eric Shea
Noam Zur’s effervescent demeanor and his ability to connect with both the orchestra and the audience made for a fantastic season-closing concert at Chautauqua last week. Zur opened his show with high-energy, uptempo repertoire that included a traditional rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and Johann Strauss Jr.’s Fledermaus Overture. The show was the last in a lengthy series, so the technical execution was less than perfect at points, but nonetheless the orchestra achieved nuanced ‘picture-perfect’ moments during Ravel’s orchestral arrangement of Mussorgsky’s ‘Pictures at an Exhibition,’ managing to expertly convey the miniature scenes’ suggested sound-worlds. Zur’s demands of both the orchestra and the audience were persuasively articulated at all times; his undeviating directorial approach completely exemplified a conductor’s ability to form connections between the visual and audial occurrences that make up the energy of a live concert.
Performing Chopin’s 2nd Piano Concerto under Zur’s baton for the second time, Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov had many towering expectations to fulfill as the anchor of this featured piece. Trifonov’s honors precede him, as he has recently won awards at three major international piano competitions, and his talents have been endorsed by superstar musicians, including Martha Argerich, who said she had “never heard a touch like his” (Financial Times 2011).
What brought both Zur and Trifonov together at Chautauqua speaks to the dynamics of international concert culture, and how friendships are born on the competition circuit.
Vice president and Director of programming Marty Merkley manages Chautauqua’s program office’s annual budget of $8 million. This generous endowment allows the ensemble to invite reputable and up-and-coming guest artists, including many young First Prize winners on the international competition circuit. Merkley, having been involved with several major projects in the music market like Michael Tilson Thomas’ New World Symphonyin Miami, is able to actively engage with competitions, and the artists that they endorse.
- Noam and Uri Zur
As the First Prize winner of the Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition in 2011, Daniil Trifonov was offered several performance opportunities by Uri Zur of ArtPro- Management (Noam Zur’s father), who has been handling Prize winners’ concert performances since 2003. Former First Prize winner Alexander (Sasha) Gavryluk‘s 2005 performance at Chautauqua is still remembered by its music-loving audiences. It was a feature concert like this taking place in Tel Aviv which brought Trifonov to the Kulturwald Festival in Germany’s Bavarian Forest last September to perform with Noam Zur for the first time. Noam Zur had become Principal Conductor of the Frankfurt Chamber Philharmonic, and had been chosen to direct a production of Die Zauberflöte at Kulturwald. It did not take long for the festival’s director and Uri Zur to realize that this dynamic could easily translate into a performance with Trifonov, Zur, and orchestra.
- Trifonov and Zur in rehearsal
Uri Zur, who has covered a lot of professional ground in the music industry including managing Naxos’ record distribution in Israel, and of course founding his artist management company ArtPro, is always in close contact with Marty Merkley at Chautauqua, but he had not intended to promote his own son for this concert season. Nevertheless, when Trifonov expressed interest in performing at Chautauqua at a time when CSO was without a conductor, there was no reason not to look to Noam for the position, given his substantial merit as a director.
The festival’s extremely chaotic schedule only allowed Zur and Trifonov one rehearsal before their live performance, so the team decided to reprise Chopin’s 2nd Piano Concerto, and attempt to recreate the captivating performance that Zur and Trifonov had presented in Germany. Asked about rehearsals, Noam Zur commented that “conductors never feel they have the right amount.” He says, “it’s either: ‘I don’t know what to do anymore, and we still have three days left,’ or ‘there is so much to do and we only have three days left!’ Especially in Opera, it happens a lot that you get no rehearsals.” He says that sometimes, performers need to get by on very little rehearsal, or even just ‘wing it’: “I know the piece, you know the piece, let’s meet in the evening.”
Noam Zur assisted Pierre Boulez at the Lucerne Festival’s academy orchestra from 2006 to 2008. Inspired by the great Maestro’s style, he embraced an ambitious, yet relaxed attitude. He still recalls conducting for Boulez in an open master class at Lucerne. As Zur shook in his shoes and dripped with sweat, Boulez stopped him saying: “this was very, very good…now do it again, and this time do it fantastic!” Zur recalls that, “in all the animated music discussions we had, he never tried to impose his opinions. Yet I learned to be discerning and critical enough not to let people get away with everything.”
As a former trombonist, Zur says he looks at the score from the point of view of an orchestral musician. “It’s not choreography,” he says. “In this measure I stand still… it’s important how it looks, it should look beautiful still, but only because you want a certain sound. The movement is the impetus that gives the performing musicians the meaning and phrasing – the philosophyof what it should sound like.”
- Noam Zur Photo: Ch. Gamble
Even though Trifonov had concerts lined up after taking gold at the 2011 Rubinstein, which is a notable marathon of pianism, and an extremely draining experience, he decided to see if he could continue his winning streak at the Tchaikovsky competition, as he was already enrolled. Uri Zur, noted that Trifonov “did not have the highest expectation, having just completed the Rubinstein, but he was going to give it a shot anyhow.”
Trifonov’s superior rendition of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.1, in the last round of the competition with the Mariinsky Orchestra under Russian conductor Valery Gergiev won him yet another gold. Gergiev did not hesitate to support his young compatriot, whom he had awarded the competition’s Grand Prix prize. Gergiev brought Trifonov on board for several concert events, at times he even trafficked Trifonov across the hemisphere from performance to performance in his own private jet. “Once he dropped me at a performance rehearsal, then went on to conduct his own concert and made it back to my performance. [They were] in different countries.” Trifonov smiles at this memory, thankful for the generous attention that the artist he calls “one of the most towering [and] busiest musicians worldwide” extended towards him. This past season alone, Trifonov performed with Maestro Gergiev in multiple concerts, tackling repertoire including Prokofiev’s 1st Piano Concerto, Gusonow’s 2nd and Liszt’s 1st.
- Daniil Trifonov
For the 2013 season, Trifonov is preparing a great deal of new repertoire for even more performances under Gergiev, including Rachmaninov’s 3rd Piano Concerto, and Prokofiev’s 2nd, which he will perform at the White Nights Festival in St.Petersburg. “I am also going to learn some Schedrin. It’s modern, for a change. I am very interested to explore more of the modern repertoire, which I did not have had much of a chance to do yet,” says the 21 year-old virtuoso pianist. “The Russian School of Piano concentrates on the Classical works, some Bach and the Romantics,” he says.
Two days prior to his own performance in Tel-Aviv, Trifonov had a chance to attend a performance of Chopin’s 1stConcerto with the iconic Russian pianist Evgeny Kissin under the baton of Zubin Mehta, the Israeli Philharmonic’s Music Director for Life. Trifonov was always a big admirer of Kissin’s artistic individuality. Both musicians attended Moscow’s famous Gnessin School for Gifted Children, which Trifonov describes as lacking the wonderfully equipped practice rooms he now uses at the Cleveland Institute of Music, where he is about to enter his fourth year. “At Gnessin-School I played on an upright, old, banged up Bechstein,” Trifonov recalls. Having access to modern, well-maintained Steinway Concert Grands makes a tangible difference in practice and performance according to Trifonov, especially when conquering ‘large’ repertoire like Rachmaninov, which he only started to explore this year. At the Cleveland Institute, Trifonov studies under Armenian pianist and conductor Sergei Babayan. Trifonov’s repertoire was always heavy with Chopin, but his recent studies with Babayan have opened him up to a whole new understanding of the idiosyncratic microcosm that constitutes Rachmaninov’s body of work. “He showed me a very different approach than the one I learned in Russia. Even though ultimately everyone goes back to Neuhaus, there are very different approaches within. Babayan opened my mind without taking away what I had. With him it’s all about the touch! He added an enormous dimension to my playing,” Trifonov says. When asked about how he learned his otherworldly pianissimo touch, Trifonov describes how students hold their breath during Babayan’s studio performance classes in an effort to hear his impossibly quiet tones. It seems that it is a combination of the Russian School’s principles and Babayan’s ethereal, yet calibrating modes of touch that brings these pianists’ pianissimo to the next dimension. I personally have heard Babayan perform and it is true- one hears the echo of the master’s touch in a personally processed nature.
- Daniil Trifonov and Ilona Oltuski
The young artist says that he aims to continue studying for an artist diploma with Babayan even though he only studies about 15 percent of the time, as he still feels like he has much to learn. Trifonov realizes that he must come to learn the music of each new composer in his own time. He sees himself tackling Beethoven at a later point in his career. “Even Schubert was a challenge for me,” Trifonov admits modestly, playing Schubert’s last Sonata in B flat-minor, “though the Mozart concerti have always been a special experience for me.”
The collaboration between Noam Zur and Trifinov was a resounding success. “It ended up a spellbinding and hair-raising experience. The audience did not dare to move in order not to miss any sound in this fantastic ‘Chopin at the barn’- like atmosphere,” Zur recalls. “We really connected not only musically. We definitely became friends. I am so happy to be together again this year with Daniil, and I really have to thank him for this one here.” To no one’s surprise, Trifonov delivered pure lyrical lucidity in his piano playing, and Zur expertly supported even the most delicate pianissimo that Trifonov extricated from the piano with his delicate, almost magical caress. Their synergy was never more evident than in the concerto’s strikingly poetic and extremely affecting Lhargettomovement. Zur and Trifonov indeed managed to yet again reconstruct some of the most magical moments of their first performance together.
- Chaim Zemach’s last rehearsal with CSO- CH.Gamble
Thanks to performance opportunities at festivals like Chautauqua, young talents like Trifonov and Noam Zur can begin to instill in audiences an ever-expanding sensibility for the beauty of music and life, and continue in a longstanding tradition of talent that permeates the international concert scene. While this concert was Noam Zur’s North-American Debut, it was also a touching curtain call for the eminent CSO lead cellist Chaim Zemach, who exited the stage at Chautauqua in a revelatory state of mind after 45 concert seasons. As Chautauqua moves forward, I am sure we can continue to expect excellence and innovation on its stage.