Philadelphia Orchestra’s Yannick Nézet-Séguin on Piano Virtuoso Daniil Trifonov

The Russian sensation will help the Orchestra kick off its new season this week at the Kimmel Center.

Photo by Jan Reagan

Photo by Jan Reagan

Sure, last week was busy for Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the maestro of the Philadelphia Orchestra. He opened the Metropolitan Opera’s season in New York City on Monday, conducting Verdi’s Otello (read our review here). He also conducted the Fabulous Philadelphians for the World Meeting of Families’ concert and mass with Pope Francis. But that was last week. 

This week has a whole new focus. Tomorrow night kicks off the Orchestra season with a gala concert with selections from Disney’s Fantasia. But, the first program of the season — running Thursday through Sunday — features virtuosic 24-year-old Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov, performing “Piano Concerto No. 4” by one of his musical idols, fellow countryman Sergei Rachmaninoff. 

Photo by by Dario Acosta

Photo by by Dario Acosta

Performing work by one of the great Russian composers of the twentieth century is an assignment that perfectly showcases Trifonov’s musical fireworks, refinement and control, described by critics as “transcendant” and “visceral.” It’s always a treat to hear a gifted soloist performing a favorite composer. (Digressing momentarily, we asked Nézet-Séguin who his non-classical music favorites are. He listed: Radiohead, Bjork and Sarah Vaughan.)

“Daniil has two things that make him very special,” explains Nézet-Séguin. “He is from the Russian school, which means he has a very high technical ability and mastery of the keyboard, but he also brings a flavor of poetry to his playing. That is more unusual when you’re in your 20s, that aspect typically opens up later in life.”

“Because of his background,” continues the maestro about the pianist from Philly’s sister city of Nizhny Novgorod, who moved to America to study at the Cleveland Institute of Music. “He is the ideal interpreter of Rachmaninoff.” 

So good, in fact, that Trifonov and the Philadelphia Orchestra recently recorded the album Rachmaninov Variations and released it this August on Deutsche Grammophon.

Trifonov, who began performing with orchestras when he was only 8 years old (losing a baby tooth midway through that first concert!), was catapulted to international stardom four years ago after nearly completing a sort of piano “Triple Crown”: winning Tel Aviv’s Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition, the Moscow International Tchaikovsky Competition, and taking third at the International Chopin Competition in Warsaw. 

“To transcend the keyboard and the technical aspects is not something that’s automatic,” says Nézet-Séguin. “We work all of our lives, but you cannot teach genius, and I don’t hesitate to use that term for Trifonov… He’s gives every ounce of himself on the keyboard.”

Thursday, October 1 through Sunday, October 4, Kimmel Center, Broad and Spruce streets, 215-893-1955.