Although he’s only 20 years old, pianist Daniil Trifonov is in demand just about everywhere.
This season, the Russian musician who now lives in the U.S. has about 100 concerts on his schedule – including a recital for Society for the Performing Arts Houston on Wednesday. He’ll play a mixed program by Franz Schubert, Frederic Chopin and Claude Debussy.
Trifonov recently spoke about his burgeoning career, from his home in Cleveland.
Q: You’ve done very well in music competitions. But how do you feel about them? Are they a good thing?
A: It depends on how often you participate, and what programs you prepare. If you go from one competition to another with the same program, it will not develop you. It can only exhaust you, because competitions can be very stressful. But if you always prepare a new program for each competition, you have the potential to grow.
But of course you have to know when to stop – competitions shouldn’t become part of a normal life.
Q: Have you entered a lot of competitions? And do you plan to enter more?
A: I haven’t participated in many competitions. But last year there were the three major competitions in the same year – the Tchaikovsky, the Rubinstein and the Chopin – and I wanted to participate in all of them. These are three of the most respected competitions for piano, so it was a very demanding year! Now, I’m not planning to enter any competitions in the future.
Q: Why did you come to the U.S. to further your studies? Surely there are plenty of good piano teachers in Russia.
A: When I was finishing my high school in Moscow, my teacher knew that I wanted to study in the United States, for a new musical experience. Also, I won a grant from a music foundation that helps Russian artists study abroad. My teacher knew many important musicians, and she asked people she knew for recommendations.
A lot of people recommended Sergei Babayan, who teaches at the Cleveland Institute of Music. So I came to study with him. I’d never met him before my first lesson in Cleveland, two-and-a-half years ago. The most important thing for young pianists is a great teacher, and that’s why I’m here. Also, the school is well established – it’s one of the best, in terms of facilities and equipment. I like it a lot here.
Q: Now that you’re enjoying so much success as a professional concert-pianist, why do you still feel the need for a teacher?
A: I’m only 20 years old – and I know people who study to 30 and more. It’s always important, even when you become an experienced musician, to play for other musicians and hear their opinions. Of course, you have to pass these ideas through your heart and mind and decide what you think – but you should listen to what other musicians say.
Q: So how do you balance your studies with your concerts?
A: I make certain periods of time, three or four weeks, when I don’t play any concerts or accept offers to perform.
Q: Is your program for SPA Houston new?
A: Yes, it’s a new program that I’ve prepared recently. This will be the second time I’ve played it. I usually change my recital programs every six months.
Q: What do you do when you’re not working on music?
A: I do everything from running, swimming and cycling to reading or watching movies. I also like cooking and art museums. And I study the lives of composers, to learn more about their music. I have many interests – but there’s only so much time.
© Colin Eatock 2012