The most amazing rendition of Prokofiev’s second piano concerto

I received an email today from a friend who had just read my latest post to the Pittsburgh Symphony blog. He asked: “Did you or will you write anything about last week’s performance? That Russian kid did the most amazing rendition of Prokofiev’s second piano concerto (not one of my favorites – until now). Amazing talent, incredible overall performance, including the Rachmaninoff.”

Of course my friend was referring to young Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov who performed with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra with guest conductor Yan Pascal Tortelier (another “must not miss”).

When I read his message I replied that unfortunately I hadn’t been able to make it to the performance, and that I wish I had! I heard a bit of an instant replay on WQED Monday morning and I knew it must have been really good based just on that little bit. Then I asked my friend if he’d like to write up a description about what he heard so that I could post it here. At first he said he was rather busy at work, for which I can fully understand. Yet I persisted and said I’d just use what he’s sent already. He went on:

“That said – the pianist was a real surprise. Only 22, but in fantastic command of nuances – this is one of those piano concertos where there is a lot of loud keyboard playing and that’s pretty hard to nuance. Also, without offence, I might add that he sort of looked like an alien, in as much as he seemed kind of discombobulated and slouched, with long spidery limbs, and I concluded that he must have some alien genes too, it’s just not possible to take a piece of music that I really don’t like that much and make me like it.  Or maybe it was the glass of wine I had before the show….”

And then about 20 minutes later I get another email:

“So here’s another thing: throughout the piano concerto I kept thinking Jimi Hendrix… so many weird harmonics (or harmonies?) and twists and turns.  I wonder what kind of mushrooms they had in Russian when Prokofiev wrote this one….  It’s just a really strange piece, and I’m not much into strange, but this kid made it sound ‘normal.'”

So there you have it, a glowing review if I ever read one.

I think that talking and reading about classical music adds to the enjoyment and so I felt the need to share his thoughts on a concert that I couldn’t attend. I enjoyed the email conversation I had with my friend, and that made me miss not seeing it even more. But here’s the good news for those of us who did not. We can all be looking forward to listening to the concert in about a year on WQED 89.3 when it is rebroadcast there.

Autumn season at Phipps

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