Shani conducts Trifonov review-The Chicago Symphony Orchestra premieres Mason Bates’ “Piano Concerto”

Thu, Jun 20, 2024 -- Chicago Symphony Orchestra Lahav Shani Conductor Daniil Trifonov Piano Avni Prayer Bates Piano Concerto Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6 (Pathétique) © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2024
Spread the love

On Thursday evening, June 20, 2024, in a concert to be repeated June 21st, 22nd and 23rd, Israeli Conductor Lahav Shani led The Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the final performances of its 133rd 2023-2024 season at Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago. The concert featured Russian Guest Pianist Daniil Trifonov, who will debut as Artist- In-Residence with the CSO for the 2024-2025 season, in a program of Israeli, Russian and American compositions including 2 pieces played for the first time by this Orchestra.

Shani, Chief Conductor of The Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, is an exciting and vibrant presence at the podium. Leading without baton or score, he encourages, commands, maneuvers through the instrumentation.  

 The event opened with the first CSO performance of Israeli-American composer Tzvi Avni’s 10 minute Prayer, 1961, revised 1969, a straightforward classically conceived work for strings, and closed with Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s well-known and exhaustively analyzed/construed 45 minute Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, Op. 74 (Pathétique), 1893. However, the evening really belonged to Trifonov, who played the first CSO performance of the glorious Piano Concerto2020-2021 by Composer/DJ Mason Bates, a former CSO Mead Composer-In-Residence.

Avni’s piece displayed a youthful American feeling, with intimations of the dissonance found in Hebrew prayers yet expanded into a larger orchestral work for strings: ancient to the future.

Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Maestro Lahav Shani, Guest Pianist
Daniil Trifonov

Trifonov, beyond question one of the most thrilling and lauded young pianists in the world, did full justice to the 3 movement Concerto, filled with changing tempos, extremely colorful contrasting rhythms and unusual textures. From the onset, brilliant extended violin cascades gave way to strong percussive beats, folk tunes and plucked strings, leaving off in a mournful trumpet call. In the second movement, a stunning horn solo was fronted by otherworldly violins and accompanied by chimes and subdued brass, Trifonov out in front and leading through the mystical sensibilities. Finally, the third movement, exceedingly complex, with layer upon layer of strongly articulated percussive beats; Trifonov’s portion was cooler, even as his fingers flew over the keyboard, side to side, in a technically astonishing display of confidence.

Mason Bates appeared and took repeated bows with Shani and Trifonov, for whom he created the piece during the pandemic. Then, the pianist performed in encore, Sergei Prokofiev’s Sarcasms for piano, Op. 17, No. 3, 1913, a seemingly loosely contrived double-themed piece, just several minutes long, filled with multiple tonal rhythms and clashing chords, dynamic, aggressive, yet with an underlying lyrical sense.

After the intermission, Shani drew from the CSO a persuasive and true rendering of the great 6th Symphony- bold, bright, uncompromising. There was much more effected than the typical unfortunate A-Z of overblown emotions.

 The orchestra sailed through the development sections, was drawn back in recapitulations, was highly controlled in the tempo changes. Adding subtle shades of chiaroscuro in the opening Adagio, similarly bringing forth brilliantly subtle degrees of color in the final Adagio, Shani and the CSO filled the hall with tightly restrained emotional nuance.

Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Lahav Shani Conductor, Composer Mason Bates, and Guest Pianist Daniil Trifonov

All photos by Todd Rosenberg Photography.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association has just announced the appointment of Teng Li as principal viola of the CSO, effective September 15, 2024. Li will hold the Paul Hindemith Principal Viola Chair, which is endowed by an anonymous benefactor. The chair is named for the renowned 20th-century composer Paul Hindemith who was also a distinguished violist, and appeared as conductor and soloist with the Orchestra, and Li succeeds Charles Pikler who served as principal viola from 1986 until 2017. Li-Kuo Chang, who held the assistant principal viola chair from 1988 until 2023, also served as acting principal viola from 2017 until his retirement in 2023. The chair was named the Paul Hindemith Principal Viola Chair in 2015.

For information and tickets to all the fine programming of The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, go to


Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.