What did I learn from attending my first ever classical music concert? When you’re told it’s a 7:30 pm start, you had better be in your seat at 7:30 pm. There’s no contingency time for stumbling in 40 minutes late, beer in hand at this joint. I miss the pre-show murmur and take my place as the lights dim, the pianist enters, sits and immediately sinks his hands into the keys. I am observing the instant stillness of the audience before I direct my attention to Daniil Trifonov.
Back in school when GCSE music required me to struggle through the embarrassment of not having practised for my violin lessons, my teacher could only bear to remind me of one thing. I was to imagine my instrument as an extension of my body, and I would learn to play like my violin was an extra arm. Watching Trifonov reminds me of this, his head bowing to the delicate melody of Beethoven’s last sonata. Arpeggios crescendo and wake him to full posture, his shoulders roll with the rumble of his left hand and his hands spring with the trills of Bach’s Fantasia and Fugue. In other words, Trifonov’s body mirrors the music he plays. Occasionally he raises his chin slowly upwards to catch the gold glow of the Bridgewater Hall lights, as if in prayer.
He builds tension with long pauses and at times I almost make the terrible mistake of starting to clap before he’s done. At the interval I hear sophisticated 50-somethings buzzing about his technical skill. I wonder if with my first experience of a classical concert that Trifonov has set the bar too high.
In any case, Trifonov, exhausted by his performance, has shown his worth to Manchester. His piano is his body, his breath is his metronome.