Jurowski and Trifonov team up for thrilling Philharmonic program
Those who haven’t seen pianist Daniil Trifonov in awhile may be surprised by his Rasputin-esque beard, which added a slight gravitas to his youthful persona at this concert by the New York Philharmonic, with Vladimir Jurowski at the helm. Perhaps this was to telegraph greater artistic wisdom, which was certainly evident in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25.
For his part, Jurowski coaxed a lithe response from the modest-sized ensemble (performing in front of folding wooden baffles, which improved the sound in David Geffen Hall). In the orchestral introduction, he encouraged balance, and the strings displayed both sensitivity and character, part of which must be credited to Frank Huang, who continues to demonstrate that his appointment as concertmaster was a shrewd one.
Trifonov made his entrance with an irresistibly light touch—fast while retaining accuracy—as the opening movement unfolded with delicious abandon. His speed occasionally came with a price. In an instructive moment, showing how superb musicians make instant corrections, one sequence with the pianist and the ensemble was out of sync, rhythmically; when it was repeated, it was perfect. For the first-movement cadenza, the pianist wrote his own Mozartian take, but with a few unexpected ventures into jazzier territory.
A true, gossamer pianissimo was the hallmark of the second movement, with Jurowski enouraging fastidious work from the orchestra to match the soloist. Trifonov’s agility enabled high speeds while maintaining articulation and projection, coupled with as one friend said, “his scoliotic posture,” hunched over, his head often just inches above the keyboard.
In the finale, a steely introduction made a fine preface to Trifonov’s nimbleness and lucidity, shown at their best by an orchestral texture that never overpowered him.
A bit of Prokofiev made an unexpected, graceful encore, giving the rapt audience one more glimpse of those limber fingers. And as a postscript, Trifonov uses an appealingly formal bow, not only to the audience, but to the orchestra—both left and right—to acknowledge his colleagues onstage.
After intermission, the wooden baffles were gone, with 100 members of the Manhattan School of Music Symphonic Chorus and Chamber Choir taking the stage for Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé. Though Ravel’s suites from the 1912 ballet are more often performed—for some, the middle of the score has its longueurs—the complete, hour-long landscape makes compelling, hypnotic listening.
Jurowski was an ideal leader, his clear gestures showing poise, and exercising fluidity in tempi and phrasing. The Russian conductor emphasized the score’s Stravinsky-esque colors, which are rarely heard so clearly and sharply; strains of Petrushka and The Firebird drifted through, only to disappear as quickly as they came. Some of the louder sections had real barbarism—the overall lushness giving way to sharp attacks from the brass. The wordless chorus ebbed and flowed magnificently, and their a cappella sequence, gradually augmented by additional brass offstage, was particularly mesmerizing.
The orchestra responded with captivating freshness and allure, anchored by sweeping contributions from the strings, a brass section that never turned harsh, and winds that seemed to bubble up from beneath the stage. The lavish, busy percussion section—with particular nods to snare drum, castanets, tambourine, bells, and celeste—threaded through the texture like glittering soldiers.
Among the dozens of solos, Huang and principal viola Rebecca Young combined with particular subtlety, Anthony McGill’s clarinet flights were enchanting, and flutist Robert Langevin justifiably received one of the evening’s loudest ovations, along with chorus director Kent Tritle.
The program will be repeated 8 p.m. Saturday. nyphil.org; 212-875-5656.