Drizzle, nor rain, could not keep me away from Daniil Trifonov's recital last Sunday afternoon in Aliso Viejo, CA.
First of the venue, which was new to me, was Soka Performing Arts Center. Built in 2011, it only seats 1000, which is fairly intimate for solo recitals and chamber music. The acoustician was Yasuhisa Toyota, who was the acoustician for Disney Concert Hall and Suntory Hall, Tokyo. The acoustics were superb, better than Disney, in my own opinion. The sound of the Steinway was warm and inviting, clearly resonant and reflective throughout the hall. Not a bad seat in the house either, with clear sightlines. Toyota himself is said to prefer the acoustics of this hall over Disney.
Now onto the program and the playing. An all Bach program is hard to pull off, especially if everything is in the same key. Pianists playing the Goldbergs at least have the variety in each variation to combat ear fatigue. Even complete readings of WTC Book 1 and 2 are tricky to maintain.
Trifonov entered the stage, a rather slight young bearded man of 28, dressed simply in white shirt and dark coat, no tie.
He immediately launched into the Brahms arrangement for one hand of the famous "Chaconne". A wonderful, fluid, dramatic reading, on par with the Igor Levit performance I heard a few years ago at Segerstrom. This arrangement is more akin to the original that Bach wrote, and although for one hand, felt and heard like two hands at times. As the final declamatory phrase resonated and slowly died away, Trifonov without pause, quietly began the theme of "The Art of Fugue", a complete performance which is rarely done.
What a reading! To pull this off and make it a genuine concert experience was astounding. He played through all the fugues, double fugues, canons and mirror canons with aplomb, never losing sight of the main theme. The contrapuntal lines were clearly incised and with enough interest in dynamics and colors to ward off any ear fatigue. His rhythmic accuracy was outstanding, with judicious use of pedal. And to play all from memory of course. He broke up the work in two to allow for an intermission, with no flagging of interest or concentration upon his return to the stage. The final quadruple fugue which was left unfinished by Bach, was completed by Trifonov himself in a blaze of Baroque intensity ending in the triumphant key of D major. Daniil is also an accomplished composer in his own right.
He then quietly finished the program with a lyrical reading of "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" in the Hess arrangement.
Needless to say, the ovations led him to perform 3 encores, fittingly all by the sons of J.S. Bach. Sonata movements by Wilhelm Friedemann and Johann Christian and a polonaise by C.P.E. finished off a rewarding afternoon.
After which, Daniil graciously signed autographs, posed for selfies and talked with fans afterwards in the lobby!