Daniil Trifonov: Tiny Desk Concert Watch the young Russian musician, who The Times of London calls "the most astounding pianist of our age," play a smart, Chopin-focused concert on a grand piano, precisely wedged behind the Tiny Desk.

Tiny Desk

Daniil Trifonov

When we invited Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov to play a Tiny Desk concert, we rolled out the big guns. In place of the trusty upright, we wedged a 7-foot grand piano behind Bob Boilen's desk in preparation for the artist who The Times of London called "without question the most astounding pianist of our age."

That's a pretty lofty claim, but watch and judge for yourself. His performance here is extraordinary. Still in his 20s, Trifonov seems to have it all: jaw-dropping technique and interpretive skills beyond his age. He's also a composer — the night before his NPR visit, he played his own knuckle-twisting piano concerto at the Kennedy Center here in Washington, D.C.

But for his Tiny Desk show, Trifonov focused on Chopin, beginning with the mercurial "Fantaisie-Impromptu" in C-sharp minor, a work that mixes sweeping melody, turbulent passion and wistful repose. Hunching close over the keyboard with feline agility, Trifonov's slender fingers glide effortlessly. He coaxes the instrument to sing tenderly in the slow central section.

Trifonov follows with a pair of short tributes to Chopin by his peers. Robert Schumann's "Chopin" accentuates the lyrical side of Chopin, filtered through the German composer's forward-looking harmonies, while Edvard Grieg's "Hommage à Chopin" offers volatility, lovingly rendered.

The smartly programmed set is capped with more Chopin, but with a nod to Mozart: the finale from a set of variations based on an aria from Don Giovanni. It gives Trifonov a chance to display his lightness of touch, plus a few pianistic fireworks. Smiling, he treats the tricky filigreed runs and hand crossings as if it were a child's game. Look closely and you can see the piano shake.

(Daniil Trifonov appears courtesy of Deutsche Grammophon GmbH.)

Set List*

  • Chopin: "Fantaisie-Impromptu, Op. 66"

  • Schumann: "Chopin. Agitato" (from Carnaval)

  • Grieg: "Hommage à Chopin, Op. 73, No. 5"

  • Chopin: "Variations on 'Là ci darem la mano' (from Mozart's Don Giovanni) - Coda. Alla Polacca"

    *(Selections found on the album Chopin Evocations.)

Musician

Daniil Trifonov (piano)

Credits

Producers: Tom Huizenga, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Alyse Young; Assistant Editor: Alyse Young; Photo: Jenna Sterner/NPR

For more Tiny Desk concerts, subscribe to our podcast.

[+] read more[-] less

More From Tiny Desk

Scott Mulvahill performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Jan. 30, 2019 (Amr Alfiky/NPR). Amr Alfiky/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Amr Alfiky/NPR

Scott Mulvahill

Scott Mulvahill has been trying to win the Tiny Desk Contest for each of its four years. And while he's never won, we all loved him so much we had to invite him to play.

Mountain Man performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Jan. 23, 2019 (Amr Alfiky/NPR). Amr Alfiky/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Amr Alfiky/NPR

Mountain Man

The voices of Amelia Meath, Molly Erin Sarlé and Alexandra Sauser-Monnig come together behind the Tiny Desk, with songs that conjure a simpler life: dogs, friends, moonlight or skinny dipping.

Lau Noah performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Jan. 10, 2019 (Amr Alfiky/NPR). Amr Alfiky/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Amr Alfiky/NPR

Lau Noah

There's a magical aura that surrounds Lau Noah as she sits behind the Tiny Desk and unspools thought-provoking story-songs.

Cat Power performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Dec. 17, 2018 (Jenna Sterner/NPR). Jenna Sterner/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Jenna Sterner/NPR

Cat Power

Chan Marshall and her band perform a brisk and beautifully orchestrated medley of Cat Power songs: "Wanderer," "Woman" and 2006's "The Moon."

Blood Orange performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Dec. 10, 2018 (Heeather Kim/NPR). Heather Kim/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Heather Kim/NPR

Blood Orange

This Blood Orange Tiny Desk is a beautifully conceived concert showing off the craft and care that has made Devonté Hynes a groundbreaking producer and songwriter.

Stella Donnelly performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Oct. 22, 2018. Cameron Pollack/NPR/Cameron Pollack/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Cameron Pollack/NPR/Cameron Pollack/NPR

Stella Donnelly

Watch the Australian singer-songwriter perform three new songs from her upcoming full-length debut, Beware of the Dogs.

Nate Wood "fOUR" performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Dec. 12, 2018. Cameron Pollack/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Cameron Pollack/NPR

Nate Wood - fOUR

The multi-instrumentalist says he only wishes he had more limbs; but Wood still manages to simultaneously play a bass guitar, keys and drums, all while singing into a wearable microphone.

Aaron Lee Tasjan performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Dec. 12, 2018 (Cameron Pollack/NPR). Cameron Pollack/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Cameron Pollack/NPR

Aaron Lee Tasjan

Aaron Lee Tasjan arrived in an ascot and mustard-colored shirt, sporting red, round sunglasses and mutton chops. It was a fashionable nod to the psych-pop and rock sound he brought to the Tiny Desk.

Carolina Eyck and Clarice Jensen perform a Tiny Desk Concert on Dec. 3, 2018 (Cameron Pollack/NPR)/ Cameron Pollack/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Cameron Pollack/NPR

Carolina Eyck and Clarice Jensen

Carolina Eyck, the first artist to bring a theremin to the Tiny Desk, plays the air with the kind of lyrical phrasing and "fingered" articulation that takes a special kind of virtuosity.

Buddy performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Dec. 4, 2018 (Cameron Pollack/NPR). Cameron Pollack/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Cameron Pollack/NPR

Buddy

The preacher's son from Compton brought his flair for the dramatic, and an air of rebellion, to the Tiny Desk.

Back To Top