Daniil Trifonov plays Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 23

Mozart – Piano Concerto No. 23 (Daniil Trifonov and the Israel Camerata Orchestra)

Russian concert pianist and composer Daniil Trifonov plays Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major (K. 488) at the 13th Arthur Rubinstein Piano Master Competition in Tel Aviv. Israel Camerata Orchestra conducted by Avner Biron. Trifonov won the First Prize.

According to Mozart’s own catalogue, the work was completed on March 2, 1786, around the time of the premiere of his opera, The Marriage of Figaro. And most likely played the first performance a few days later in Vienna. On the whole, the last six of the twelve piano concertos that Mozart wrote between 1784 and 1786 are conceived on a bigger scale than the earlier ones – many of which were designed for favourite pupils, but the A major concerto K488 is an exception, for in this the most lyrical of all the concertos Mozart dispenses with trumpets and drums and uses clarinets in place of oboes.

The concerto has three movements:

  1. Allegro in A major and common time.
  2. Adagio in F-sharp minor and 6/8 time (in later editions, the tempo is listed as Andante).
  3. Allegro assai in A and alla breve (in later editions, the tempo is listed as Presto). In Rondo form.

The first movement is in A major and is in sonata form. It is an uninterrupted flow of melody, part way between happiness and poignancy, but with an aura as luminous, warm, and radiant as it is discreet. The piece begins with a double exposition, the first played by the orchestra, and the second when the piano joins in. The first exposition is static from a tonal point of view and is quite concise, the third theme is not yet revealed. The second exposition includes the soloist and is modulatory. It also includes the previously unheard third theme. The second exposition is ornamented as opposed to the first exposition which is not. The second theme has harmonic tension. This is expressed by dissonances that are played on the beat, and then solved by an interval of a descending second. This is also expressed in the use of chromatics in the melody and bass lines which is a source of harmonic tension, as the listeners anticipate the arrival of the tonic.

The second movement, Adagio, in ternary form, is somewhat operatic in tone. It is Mozart’s only movement in F-sharp minor, and his last slow movement in a minor key, is one of the most poignant things he ever wrote. The Sicilian theme, which remains the exclusive property of the solo instrument, is as graceful and touching in its simplicity as the orchestra’s answer is expressive of the depths of grief. A short contrasting interlude in A major, with a gurgling second clarinet part, only serves to emphasise the hopeless mood of the movement’s closing bars, where the sorrow is intensified into bleakness by the effect of eight bars of bare, single note leaps for the piano over pizzicato violins, while the other strings play smooth quavers and the wind sustain the harmony.

The third movement is a rondo. An Allegro assai among the most buoyant in Mozart’s concerto canon, with key-changes and even high comedy that find the patient recovered and happy, as are all of us are who have been worried till now about his health.

Daniil Olegovich Trifonov (born March 5, 1991 in Nizhny Novgorod) is a Russian concert pianist and composer. At 17, he won Fifth Prize at the 4th International Scriabin Competition in Moscow, and First Prize at the 3rd International Piano Competition of San Marino, where he also received the Special Prize for the best performance of Chick Corea’s composition.

In 2010, he played at the Rathausplatz in Vienna’s Town Hall Square as one of the seven finalists of the Eurovision Young Musicians. In 2010, Trifonov became a medalist of the distinguished XVI International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw, where he won Third Prize and the Special Prize of Polish Radio for the best mazurka performance.

In 2011, he won the First Prize at the 13th Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition in Tel Aviv, winning also the Pnina Salzman Prize for the Best Performer of a Chopin piece, the Prize for the Best Performer of Chamber Music and the Audience Favorite Prize.

A few weeks after winning the Rubinstein Competition, Trifonov was awarded the First Prize, Gold Medal, and Grand Prix at the XIV International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. Trifonov also won the Audience Award and the Award for the Best Performance of a Chamber Concerto.

The Israel Camerata Orchestra Jerusalem is the leading chamber orchestra in Israel today. The Camerata was founded in 1983 by Avner Biron, who has been its music director and permanent conductor since then.

The orchestra performs more than 100 concerts a year in Israel and abroad. Its activities include subscribers’ series, festivals, special concerts and unique educational projects all over the country.

The Camerata’s repertoire ranges from the Baroque to contemporary music. In addition to the traditional repertoire the Camerata is involved in performances of unknown and newly discovered music of different periods as well as performing premiers of contemporary works, Israeli music and works written especially for Avner Biron and the Camerata.

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