Daniil Trifonov | Biography


Daniil Trifonov
© Dario Acosta
Please note that because of the Covid−19 pandemic, we are currently unable to provide reliable information about forthcoming live performances.
“Trifonov … exhibited the fluidity and flair of a Romantic pianist and of a modern pianist. He could be somber. He could be extravagant. He could be clever. He could be epic. He couldn’t stop being dramatic. And, most of all, he was stunningly in command.” Los Angeles Times, 10 February 2020 reviewing a performance of Bach’s The Art of Fugue
Whenever Daniil Trifonov performs, time appears to stand still. Out of silence emerges a rare kind of music-making, transcendent and revelatory, never predictable yet always alive to the composer’s intentions and rooted in the music’s nature. “What he does with his hands is technically incredible,” observed one commentator shortly after the young Russian pianist’s winning performance in the final of the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 2011. “It’s also his touch – he has tenderness and also the demonic element. I never heard anything like that.” This was the opinion not of a professional critic but of one of the world’s greatest pianists, Martha Argerich.
Trifonov’s pianism, with its captivating blend of poetry and power, bears witness to a unique talent. His inventive brilliance and individuality also extend to his growing reputation as a composer, which reached a new level in April 2014 when he performed the fiendishly difficult solo part in the world premiere of his First Piano Concerto at the Cleveland Institute of Music. He has since performed the work extensively and gave its Carnegie Hall debut with the Mariinsky Orchestra and Valery Gergiev in November 2017. Trifonov premiered his Piano Quintet (Quintetto Concertante) at the Verbier Festival in July 2018 and has since given further performances in Berlin, New York and Tel Aviv, among others. 
Deutsche Grammophon announced the signing of an exclusive recording agreement with Daniil Trifonov in February 2013. His debut recital, recorded live at Carnegie Hall, combined Liszt’s Sonata in B minor, Scriabin’s “Sonata-Fantasy”, and Chopin’s 24 Preludes op. 28. Nominated for the 2015 Grammy® Awards in the Best Classical Instrumental Solo category, it also helped Trifonov secure the 2014 ECHO Klassik Award for Best Newcomer of the Year (Piano). His next recording, released in 2015, comprised a vital interpretation of Rachmaninov’s Variations on a Theme of Paganini, made with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Yannick Nézet-Séguin, together with outstanding performances of the same composer’s Variations on a Theme of Chopin and Variations on a Theme of Corelli. It also included Trifonov’s own Rachmaniana, a virtuoso piece for solo piano, and contributed to his winning the international public vote for Gramophone’s 2016 “Artist of the Year” award.
In 2016, DG released his double-disc set of Liszt’s complete concert Études. Transcendental coupled the notoriously challenging “Transcendental Etudes” with the Grandes Études de Paganini and five other concert studies, the first complete survey created for the Yellow Label by one artist. Transcendental was announced as winner of the Best Classical Instrumental Solo category at the 60th Grammy® Awards in January 2018.
Trifonov’s discography expanded in 2017 with the release of Preghiera, recorded with violinist Gidon Kremer and cellist Giedrė Dirvanauskaitė, Chopin Evocations, comprising recordings made with Mikhail Pletnev and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra of the two Chopin piano concertos (in Pletnev’s orchestrations), as well as a selection of Chopin’s earliest and latest works, and Chopin-inspired pieces by Schumann, Grieg, Tchaikovsky, Mompou and Barber; and a Schubert album featuring the “Trout” Quintet and other chamber works, recorded with Anne-Sophie Mutter and three graduates of the Mutter Foundation.
He then recorded the complete Rachmaninov piano concertos with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Nézet-Séguin. Destination RachmaninovDeparture, featuring Nos.2 and 4, was released in October 2018 and won the Concerto category at the 2019 BBC Music Magazine awards. Released last October, Destination Rachmaninov – Arrival completed the cycle with Nos.1 & 3. Trifonov also performed Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto as part of the historic DG120 Gala Concert at Beijing’s Forbidden City, the live recording of which was released in various formats in January 2019.
His latest album, Silver Age, recorded with the Mariinsky Orchestra and Valery Gergiev, pays tribute to music created during a turbulent era in Russian history. Set for release in November 2020, it includes Scriabin’s Piano Concerto in F sharp minor, Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No.2 in G minor and Stravinsky’s Three Movements from Petrushka, as well as Stravinsky’s Serenade and excerpts from The Firebird (transcr. Agosti), together with Prokofiev’s Sarcasmes, Piano Sonata No.8 and the “Gavotte” from Three Pieces from “Cinderella”.
Highlights of Trifonov’s 2019–20 season included Rachmaninov concerto performances in Seattle, San Francisco and Vancouver; a US recital series with his mentor Sergei Babayan culminating in a performance at Carnegie Hall; a series of appearances as the New York Philharmonic’s 2019–20 Artist-in-Residence, in repertoire including the Scriabin Piano Concerto, his own Piano Quintet (New York premiere) and Bach’s The Art of Fugue; Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto in Los Angeles with the LA Philharmonic and Michael Tilson Thomas; Beethoven’s Piano Concertos Nos.1 and 5 with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Yannick Nézet-Séguin; and further performances of The Art of Fugue on tour in the US and Canada. 
After making two appearances at this summer’s Salzburg Festival, Trifonov began the 2020‑21 season with a performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.3 with the Berliner Philharmoniker and Kirill Petrenko at the Berlin Philharmonie. His plans for the autumn include Brahms’s Piano Concerto No.1 with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and Lahav Shani in Rotterdam and Essen (1–4 October); solo recitals exploring the piano repertoire of the twentieth century at the Pierre Boulez Saal and Hamburg’s Laeiszhalle (9 and 16 November); and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.5 with the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester and Andris Nelsons in Leipzig, Hamburg and Paris (12/13, 17 and 21 November).
Daniil Trifonov was born in Nizhny Novgorod in 1991, the son of professional musicians. “I started playing piano when I was five and was also composing and always playing some concerts,” he recalls. He made his debut with orchestra at the age of eight, an occasion etched in his memory by the loss of one of his baby teeth midway through the performance. During his student days at Moscow’s Gnessin School of Music, he borrowed historic recordings of great pianists from his teacher, Tatiana Zelikman, and absorbed lasting lessons from the recorded work of Rachmaninov, Cortot, Horowitz, Friedman, Sofronitsky and other representatives of a golden age of piano playing. “Among the pianists who inspire me nowadays are Martha Argerich, Grigory Sokolov and Radu Lupu,” he notes.
In 2008 Trifonov secured fifth prize in Moscow’s Fourth International Scriabin Competition. The following year he enrolled at the Cleveland Institute of Music to study piano with Sergei Babayan; he also received lessons in composition during his time there. He won the 13th Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition in Tel Aviv in 2011 before returning home to secure first prize, the Gold Medal, and Grand Prix at the XIV International Tchaikovsky Competition. He also won the Tchaikovsky Competition’s Audience Award and the Award for the best performance of a Mozart concerto. On that occasion, Martha Argerich concluded that Trifonov was gifted with “everything and more”, a view endorsed ever since by an ongoing flood of rave reviews, audience ovations, artistic residencies and international prizes, including the accolade of being named Musical America’s Artist of the Year 2019.