ShareThis Page

Young Russian pianist wows audience at Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra concert

| Friday, Nov. 1, 2013, 10:58 p.m.

The way Daniil Trifonov walked on stage to open Friday night's Pittsburgh Symphony concert gave no hint of the amazing musical experience to come.

By the time he was done, his face was wet with perspiration, and the Heinz Hall audience was on its feet cheering.

Two years ago, the Russian pianist won prizes at three of music's most prestigious competitions. Now 22, he entered with no obvious ego or attitude beyond eagerness to get to the keyboard. Once there, he was transformed.

Trifonov, guest conductor Yan Pascal Tortelier and the orchestra played Sergei Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 2 to open what was a great concert from start to finish.

From the soloist's first notes, his command of sonority and atmosphere were obvious. As the piece unfolded, his projection of the expressive arc of the whole form was fully convicing, which is not easy in this concerto. A lyrical passage near the end of the finale was remarkable for its sense of growing inner fulfillment.

Trifonov's technique is stunning. Both hands can be thunderous or play with gossamer delicacy. There were times when the power of his playing had the piano visibly shaking, but the keys also popped for him.

The musical force in Trifonov is so strong that every kind of music in the concerto seemed to emerge from within, but to say the music burst out would miss the precision and control with which he shaped it.

His encore was “Alborada del gracisioso” by Maurice Ravel, originally for piano but far more famous in the composer's orchestra. Trifonov had the keys popping again in the propulsive outer sections. The jester's song in the middle of the piece, which is played by bassoon in the orchestral version, stood out with individuality.

Tortelier's passionate account of Sergei Rachmanioff's Symphony No. 2 after intermission should have been no surprise given the romantic version he did here of the Symphony No. 1 by Jan Sibelius. After the hard edges of the Prokofiev, the orchestra reveled in the Rachmaninoff's sumptuous sound, guided by Tortelier's knowing ear for musical balance and sonority.

Among numerous excellent orchestral solos, the most outstanding was the sensitivity of Michael Rusinek playing the big clarinet melody in the third movement.

This concert will be repeated at 8 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday in Heinz Hall, Downtown. Admission is $25.75 to $109.75. Details: 412-392-4900 or

Mark Kanny is classical music critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.