[Jan 11, 2024] Daniil Trifonof Plays Brahms: Concert Review @Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto

Concert Diary
This article can be read in about 18 minutes.

Jan 14, Encore Updated

I attended a fantastic concert on Thursday, January 11th, at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto, featuring Daniil Trifonov on piano, Gustavo Gimeno conducting, and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

It was my first concert since arriving in Toronto♪, and I was particularly excited because it showcased the highly acclaimed pianist, Daniil Trifonov.

▼The venue was conveniently connected to the subway, St. Andrew station, right near the iconic CN Tower.

▼The venue was conveniently connected to the subway, St. Andrew station, right near the iconic CN Tower.

Daniil Trifonov x Gustavo Gimeno x TSO

Daniil Trifonov (Piano)

At the tender age of 19, Trifonov achieved the remarkable feat of winning the 3rd prize in the 2010 Chopin International Competition, followed by consecutive victories at the Rubinstein and Tchaikovsky International Competitions in 2011.

Known for his transcendental technique inheriting the great Russian pianism, Trifonov captivates audiences with a groundbreaking and inventive style among the young and mid-career pianists.

Personally, I associate him strongly with Liszt and Rachmaninoff.
I’m eager to see how he will interpret the youthful passion of Brahms in his performance.

Gustavo Gimeno x Toronto Symphony Orchestra

I’m also looking forward to the collaboration with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the music director, Gustavo Gimeno. As long as I live in Toronto, I will have more opportunities to listen to their performance.

Gimeno, originally the principal percussionist of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, transitioned to conducting and has been active primarily in the Netherlands. Since 2020, he has served as the music director of the TSO.

Toronto Symphony Orchestra, with a history of over 100 years, has been conducted by renowned figures like Seiji Ozawa in the past.

Program/Ticket Information

Date: Thu, January 11, 2024
Time: 8:00 PM
Venue: Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto


  • Walker: Sinfonia No. 2
  • Lutosławski: Concerto for Orchestra
  • Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 15

The first two pieces are quite unfamiliar to me,,,

Walker, an American composer, and Lutosławski, a Polish composer, both represent relatively newer works from the latter half of the 20th century.

My main focus is Brahms’ Concerto. Trifonov is often associated with a cool-toned style, so I’m eager to experience how he brings his touch to this passionately intense composition.

Ticket Prices

Main Floor: $91 ~ 128
Mezzanine: $111 ~ 141
Balcony: $45 ~ 82
Choir Loft: $65 ~ 121

Capitalism seems to be thriving here, as ticket prices vary based on seating and weekday/weekend distinctions – quite a detailed breakdown compared to Japan :p

Walker: Sinfonia No. 2

My first concert in Toronto, at a new venue, with a new conductor and orchestra, and a piece I’ve never heard before.

Filled with anticipation, the first piece of the night was Sinfonia No. 2 by the American composer Walker.

Toronto Symphony Orchestra, perhaps influenced by the size of the venue, produced a tender and well-balanced sound. It really gave off that distinct ”Toronto” vibe.

The composition itself was a contemporary-ish piece, maintaining an unsettled atmosphere throughout. It felt like something out of a movie soundtrack, evoking a sense of excitement and suspense.

Lutosławski: Concerto for Orchestra

Lutosławski, a renowned Polish composer, takes center stage in this musical exploration.

The charm of this piece lies in the clash of the distinct personalities of each instrument. The meaning of the term ”Concerto for Orchestra” became clear to me.

In the first piece of tonight, I initially thought this orchestra would produce a well-round and well-contained sound. However, I was pleasantly surprised as sharp, edgy notes collided, creating an exhilarating experience.

Particularly, the percussion section left a strong impression, in an unconventional moment where three musicians relentlessly beat the snare drums HAHA.

As the 1st movement approached its conclusion, amidst the chaos, a heartwarming folk-like melody emerged, creating an eerie contrast. It felt akin to hearing a baby’s voice in a chilling horror movie…

In the 3rd movement, a simple melody persisted through the chaos. The gradual diminuendo of this melody, coupled with the non-vibrato violin playing as if squeezing out the notes, sent shivers down my spine.

It was a well-chosen and well-performed piece that truly showcased the orchestra’s excellence.

Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 15

The much-anticipated moment arrived – Brahms’ Piano Concerto, my favorite. Daniil Trifonov took the stage with his signature unpredictable beard and hairstyle :p – this time opting for a slightly stubbled look paired with long hair.

The first movement, the timpani kicked off with full force, initially suggesting D minor, but then shifting to the striking B♭ major for the memorable first theme. However, the brightness didn’t linger for long, settling back into D minor.

Originally conceived as a symphony, the composition boasts an immensely grand scale, reflecting youthful energy and a robust character. It is so dramatic that it seems almost exaggerated, and yet it retains a classical/baroque echoes, making it a one-of-a-kind piece.

The lightness of waltz-like triple time persists throughout (notated as 6/4 on the score) , yet the overall atmosphere is consistently weighty, especially highlighted by the trills introduced from the very beginning. Trilling in octaves – quite a workout for the little finger!

After a grand orchestral introduction, the eagerly awaited entrance of the piano. Despite the quiet beginning, there was a sense of speed and expansiveness in the subdued tones. The icy and rigid sound, true to my expectations, was present and, to my delight, matched my preferences.

I relished in the pleasure of Trifonov’s powerful play.

Moving on to the second theme, Trifonov naturally embodied a singing quality. This is where Brahms truly shines, and Trifonov effortlessly captures the essence. 

Now, the 2nd movement, the undeniably beautiful melodies intertwined with a sense of hesitation and sorrow. Some suggest the influence of the passing of Brahms’ mentor, Schumann.

How to express the gentle descending motif at the beginning? It’s like an unclouded light that, despite its brilliance, leaves you unable to fully rejoice, creating a sense of unease.

Trifonov’s sound, while not devoid of emotion, remains rigid and icy. It’s quite challenging to describe. Maybe this ambiguity is his unique style, somewhere between warmth and detachment.

The 10 minutes of this movement were particularly dense, passing in the blink of an eye. The woodwinds of the orchestra also delivered an exceptional tone.

Without a pause, we move on to the 3rd movement. This Rondo has a Baroque feel, with a galloping theme polyphonically presented – a fast and impressive piece. The intensity increases, and the left-hand passages culminate in octaves, adding thickness to the sound. Brahms was quite the virtuoso to play this, indeed!

Trifonov, too, tackled it with tempo and energy.
The tension of us was steadily rising.

What makes this movement charming is the substantial piano solo time, especially in presenting the opening theme. Even in the closing moments after 45 minutes, there are not one but two cadenzas – quite demanding!

In the first cadenza, a gradual introduction of the light in D major begins.

And here, Trifonov, accelerate! It’s where he injected his character, showcasing a burst of energy. One wondered where he found the stamina and vigor at nearly 50 minutes into the finale!

Both Trifonov and the orchestra hit maximum voltage. In the coda, they cast off anxiety and sorrow, dispelling the lingering dark clouds that overshadowed the entire composition. The piece concludes with a radiant sense of hope for the future.

It was flawless from start to finish!

It’s been a while since I’ve felt my temperature rise without any stress. The ensemble with the orchestra was spot on, and I’ve become a fan of Gimeno and the TSO. I’m now eager to listen to Trifonov’s Brahms Sonata.

Encore (Piano Solo)

Unfortunately, I couldn\’t identify it.
Apologies for my assumption, I thought it would surely be uploaded to the website, but it seems like a typical Japanese expectation…

It was a quiet and beautifully melodic composition, likely a newer piece given its characteristics.

1.14 Update

  • Mompou: Variations on a Theme of Chopin

I searched for the latest encore performances and gave them a listen one after another. Most likely, it was this one.

I remember it started from the third variation. Following that, there were no intense variations; a series of gentle variations unfolded.

And let me tell you, it was exquisite.

His delicate touch allowed you to sense both speed and expansiveness, even an otherworldly expanse, a crystalline softness that bursts with the speed of light.

A sound eagerly awaited by all, as everyone hushed, like the appearance of a shooting star in the serene night sky. It truly felt as if Trifonov had control over the very fabric of the space itself, creating a sensation of cosmic breadth.

What a captivating experience! Stay tuned for more updates on my musical adventures in Toronto♪

I’ve rambled on, but thank you so much for reading.

It became evident that the TSO under Gustavo Gimeno is indeed a fantastic ensemble, and for me, it was a great opportunity for my love for Trifonov to soar even higher.

Here in Toronto, it seems like I’ll be able to enjoy Russian music, which brings a sense of relief.

Since it looks like classical music information in Toronto is not well-organized, I’m eager to gather as much information as possible. I also plan to continue sharing updates for those in Japan…

By the way, how do you all gather information about classical concerts? I did some research myself, and it was a bit of a challenge to gather information. If you have any tips or tricks, I’d love to hear them!