The Price of Genius – Trifonov at the Barbican London
Interesting to note how the PR boys deal with Genius.
A programme full of Vogue model type fotos but in reality it was the same distracted genius of yore.
It cannot be easy to live with genius which is consuming you alive.
Such is Trifonov as he has been I imagine from his very early youth.
I remember meeting Trifonov at his 21st birthday party after he had just played Rachmaninov 1st Piano concerto at the Festival Hall on the same Fazioli piano that he used today.
The problem was that whilst at the rehearsal everything sounded well, with the notorious acoustic of the RFH the sound did not seem to reach into the crevaces of which there are many.
The audience were kept waiting whilst urgent discussions were in progress.
The concert of course was a great success but the audience at home got a better picture from listening on the radio than a lot of us got in the hall.
A beautiful private party afterwards where we were seated around a table of some 30 people.
Trifonov was very silent, quietly enjoying the party that his wonderful benefactress had arranged for him .
I was seated next to a man who was preparing a video about this young man long before he became world famous.
I seemed to recognise his voice although we had not been introduced.
It turned out to be Christopher Nupen who had made all those wonderful films years before about Ashkenazy,Barenboim,Jaqueline Dupre and many others in that truly golden era in London.
Our hostess announced that Danil had to leave early as he had to catch an early flight to his next destination.
I left at the same time together with Christopher and I just casually asked Danil what he thought of the piano.
Talk about a red rag to the bull.
He kept us in the street for two hours talking passionately about the piano and the music in a stream of breathless words with the passion of a man possessed.
He had been quietly waiting for an opportunity to talk about his passion,his life blood- Music.
I remember our hostess telling us off for keeping his taxi waiting and stopping him from getting an early night!
Christopher had written to our hostess to ask who I was “who was that man with a ‘shock ‘ of white hair “.
He was most amused when I quoted his words to him in an E mail correspondence later!
All this to say that it was the same Danil who appeared before us last night.
Crumpled suit ,towseled hair,tie skew- whiff – but his passion for music still intact.
He looked tired.
Consumed no doubt by his own passionate total dedication to music.
And it was the music that he shared with us last night.
Breathless,disordered,desperate,passionate.Genius does not always come lightly .
There is always the element of hit and miss in a constant voyage of discovery- of possibility.
Richter too had this superhuman self consuming talent that was ignited the moment he reached the keyboard.
He threw himself at the piano just as Trifonov did tonight.
Fou Ts’ong is the only other person I have met who was totally consumed and dedicated to music in this way.
He mused with himself in an almost private conversation in which it was the music not he that counted.
It is not always pleasant and can sometimes seem out of control and disorderly.
But as Gilels used to say about recording in comparison to live performance that it is the difference between canned or fresh food.
A programme that could have been played without a break such was his communion with the instrument once
he had arrived at its feet.
he had arrived at its feet.
The Andante Favori led without a break into the Sonata op 31 n.3 .
It was a Beethoven both beautiful and bewitched.
It was a continual voyage of discovery which of course missed the very backbone of the work.
But what did it matter these were new eyes and ears searching desperately for the substance that was within.
It was not easy to accept – was Richter’s Appassionata?
But you could not take your eyes off it ‘s remarkable meanderings.
Bunte Blatter op 99 by Schumann were down as a selection but tonight he chose to play all twelve pieces .This too leading without a break into the Presto Passionato op 22.
It is interesting to note, and I am sure it is not just by chance, that the two rejected movements were included in tonight’s programme Andante Favori was to be the slow movement of the Waldstein Sonata as the Presto Passionatao was to be the final of the G minor Sonata.
Nothing is down to chance with a musician with such a searching mind.
The Bunte Blatter were both extremely beautiful and extremely dispersive.
The search was on and I must say on this occasion I did not think he had found the link that could bind these “Coloured Leaves” together.
Some wonderful subtle colouring and some gigantic plunges into an ocean of sound but some meandering without a strict sense of pulse and direction.
Talk about technical perfection or colour or sound is superfluous.This was a man who had thrown himself into the ocean and was swimming his way to survival.
Sink or swim indeed.
A first half that lasted almost 90 minutes !
He was not at all exhausted but we certainly were.
But then we are not superhuman.
After the interval came a remarkable performance of Prokofiev’s 8th Sonata.
It was as though the other works had been leading up to this performance.
I would have preferred a more sumptuous sound especially at the seductive opening. Gilels gave the first performance so I could just imagine that creamy rich sound.
More bite ,more edge ,more backbone .
But who am I to say.
This was a man creating the work afresh on the spot.
A work that Sviatoslav Richter described as a tree heavy with fruit.
Such sensous sounds and subtle colours not because he was seraching for them but because the music was speaking directly to him and he transmitting them to us.
Je joue,je ecoute je trasmet indeed.
The Vocalise was the single encore offered to an audience on their feet shouting for more.
He looked tired now and probably had not even realised himself the marathon that he had run this evening.
A unique artist.
Not always pleasant to listen to.
But someone who brings a breath of fresh air into what is fast becoming a rather artificial world of perfectly reproduced performances.
Like the piano in Steinways that you press a button and you can have any number of great pianists playing in your living room.
Press it again and it will repeat exactly the same.
With Trifonov that could never be.