Chicago Music Preview: TRIFONOV PLAYS RACHMANINOV (Chicago Symphony Orchestra)

Post image for Chicago Music Preview: TRIFONOV PLAYS RACHMANINOV (Chicago Symphony Orchestra)

by Tony Frankel on April 4, 2015

in Theater-Chicago


All it took was one performance from 23-year-old Daniil Trifonov (dan-EEL TREE-fon-ov) to resoundingly validate for me why he is the current Big Thing of the piano world. The Liszt-like master’s rendition of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2 at the Hollywood Bowl (followed by a jaw-dropping encore of Stravinsky’s Firebird for piano) convinced me that this is a pianist for the ages. Combining flawless skill with a fierce tenderness, he is fascinating to watch live. Beginning April 16, 2015, Trifonov returns to Chicago Symphony to perform the first concerto of Rachmaninov, a composer who is a natural fit for this exciting pianist.


When I saw him at the Bowl, the thin Russian hunched over the keys, pursed his lips, scrunched his face, and closed his eyes tight as if he were reliving some gloriously bittersweet and lovely memory. Sometimes, his face appeared to be grimacing with passionate intent, a physical determination that caused his hair to be matted with sweat.

The combination of possessed frenzy and ardent lovemaking on view belied his unswervingly amazing technique. Each note could be easily identified, yet they cascaded smoothly like a pulsating waterfall. The combination of strength and tenderness more than validated why Trifonov won medals at three of the most prestigious competitions in the music world: the Chopin Competition in Warsaw (Third Prize), the Rubinstein Competition in Tel Aviv (First Prize) and the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow (First Prize and Grand Prix).

Semyon-BychkovLeading the CSO and Trifonov is guest conductor Semyon Bychkov, who emigrated to the United States from the Soviet Union not long after winning the 1973 Rachmaninov Conducting Competition. With extensive experience in Europe and throughout the world, he has been a truly international artist for more than a quarter of a century, yet he firmly believes his Russian upbringing is of crucial importance to the man and artist he has become. This substantiates the excitement of this all-Russian program, which plays through April 21. It concludes with Shostakovich’s Eighth, his most ferocious symphony, a 1943 work that reflects WWII in its relentless third-movement scherzo, punctuated with breathtaking squeals and crashes as if from flying missiles. Here is a snippet of the Eighth, the Allegro non troppo, with Bychkov and the WDR Symphony Orchestra:

The CSO is an orchestra for which Bychkov has particularly high regard: “It is a jewel. I admire their collective and individual intelligence. Their professionalism is legendary, and it is an orchestra that has a real personality, a style and a signature.”


photos courtesy of CSO

Trifonov Plays Rachmaninov
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Semyon Bychkov, conductor
Daniil Trifonov, piano
Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave.
Thursday, April 16, 2015 at 8:00
Friday, April 17, 2015 at 1:30
Saturday, April 18, 2015 at 8:00
Tuesday, April 21, 2015 at 7:30
for tickets, call 312-294-3000 or visit

Comments on this entry are closed.