Daniil Trifonov, Barbican, London, review: One of the most gruelling pianistic programmes I’ve heard in a long time

The Russian superstar pianist, who was spotted buying some honey for energy in Tesco, just before his concert, didn’t disappoint, even when it got to the encore

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

As I nipped into Tesco’s, Daniil Trifonov’s recital was due to start down the road in 20 minutes. The queue at the till was moving so slowly that everyone was getting restive – apart from a young man in bomber jacket and jeans just in front of me. He half-turned: Daniil Trifonov! What was he buying? “Honey, for energy.” Shouldn’t he be togged-up and poised ready backstage for action? “It’s OK, I’m fine.” He talked about the tour he was finishing, and strolled off cool as a cucumber. 

He was just four minutes late when, immaculate in tails, he strode onstage to launch into one of the most gruelling pianistic programmes I’ve heard in a long time. First he gave a delicately poetic account of Schumann’s Kinderszenen, before tearing full-pelt through the same composer’s exuberant “Toccata in C major”. Then it was down to serious business with Schumann’s Kreisleriana. He’d looked deeply into this multi-faceted masterpiece, and came up with ideas and effects which I had never heard before. Some were disputable, but all were interesting. His second half began with five pieces from Shostakovich’s Preludes and Fugues – again deeply pondered – before exhibiting the requisite showmanship in his Stravinsky finale, Petrushka

This amazing young Russian has hitherto made a point of destroying his own magic with ill-chosen encores, but not this time: we got two rarely-performed Medtner pieces. But his magic was more effectively ruined than usual: we emerged into the foyer to be ear-blasted by some grotesquely over-amplified rap. An essential part of any concert experience consists of the echoes it leaves in the mind, and this repellent aural shock comprehensively trashed all possible echoes: I’ve never seen an entire audience so keen to get the hell out. Who sanctioned this? Do the classical-music and social-engineering departments of the Barbican not talk to each other?

Comments