Conductor: Ludovic Morlot
Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 30 - Daniil Trifonov
Rachmaninoff: Symphonic Dances, Op. 45
After a blissfully uneventful Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday sounded decidedly more exciting sans shopping, but with a fun visit to the Museum of the City of New York across the Park in the afternoon and a promising concert by the New York Philharmonic in the David Geffen Hall down Broadway in the evening. The soloist was the alleged new Russian pianist prodigy – and incidentally official new board member – Daniil Trifonov, performing what is considered by many the Everest of the piano repertoire, Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3, which would be a most efficient way to assess the relative newcomer's much hyped skills. Let's face it, if he can handle the notoriously untamable Rach 3, he should be able to handle pretty much everything else.
Rachmaninoff's delightful Symphonic Dances completed the substantial program, whose popular appeal was made even more obvious by the packed concert hall. Just play big, gorgeous, timeless music and they will come.
If the posters advertising the New York Philharmonic's Rachmaninoff festival have featured a strongly determined-looking Daniil Trifonov, the skinny, smiling young man who was greeted by an unusually loud ovation on Friday night looked more harmless than anything else. However, as soon as he started playing it quickly became clear that he was fully capable of taking on the challenging work with not only an impressive technique, but also plenty of sensitivity during the more introspective passages, which sometimes get lost in all the sweeping Romantic turmoil. His long fingers were confidently flying all over the keyboard at breakneck speed, but always with razor-sharp precision and impeccable timing. Whether wildly galloping or dreamily pondering, the fierce virtuoso was unquestionably in charge, occasionally forcing conductor Ludovic Morlot to make tiny but necessary adjustments. I generally roll my eyes at the American habit of giving standing ovations to all performances regardless of their actual merit, but this time I happily joined the spontaneous, roof-raising standing ovation that saluted the truly mind-blowing Rach 3 we had just experienced.
Obviously sensitive to our loud demonstration of appreciation and probably psyched by the feat he had just accomplished, the unstoppable pianist, who had more than earned the right to rest on his laurels, came back for Medtner's "Fairy Tale" in F Minor, letting his poetic side beautifully blossom and prompting yet another resounding ovation in the process. Believe the hype: The kid is THAT good.
So what does one play after Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3? Well, more Rachmaninoff, of course! And so we moved on to his Symphonic Dances, which finally put the orchestra in the spotlight . Moving from the non-stop intensity of the piano concerto to the more light-hearted spirit of the orchestral work was a bit of adjustment, but once their infectious theme came out to tease us on, we were right onboard and stayed on until the very end. The voltage had definitely gone down a notch, which made it a perfectly pleasant way to unwind the evening.