If you rediscover lost works, promote them: the young Russian pianist
Denis Matsuev has backed his CD Unknown Rachmaninov with a concert
including its pi?ce de r?stance — Rachmaninov's piano version
of the Suite for Orchestra he wrote when he was 18. He was
a conscientious student, desperate for Tchaikovsky's approval: when
the conservatoire orchestra proved not to have enough instruments,
he rewrote it for himself to play. Whether he performed it still not
Paris: For concertgoers fr om Beijing toTokyo, Salzburg orhis native Russia, Denis Matsuev, thetowering 31-year-old pianist from theSiberian city ofIrkutsk, isaphenomenally gifted performer who regularly sweeps audiences toand off their feet.
For the Times of London, “perhaps he isthenew Horowitz.” After aMatsuev recital atthe Kennedy Center last November, Tim Page wrote inThe Washington Post that “Matsuev seems tobethe very real thing - anabsolute powerhouse ofapianist, capable ofvanquishing themost technically demanding music intherepertory,” adding, “Ihope thepiano isfeeling better again soon.” Writing last month, TheCincinnati Post recommended buying aticket “onthe left hand side” ofthe symphony hall inorder tobeable towatch firsthand the“power andpanache” ofMatsuev.
With such plaudits ringing inhis ears, why wastheRussian musician pondering late intoarecent night “thehorror andtragedy ofourprofession?”
The answer, he suggested, lies both inthecontemporary view andstructure ofclassical music, andinthenature andtiming ofhis andother young careers intheoften opaque Russia oftoday.
While he is confident that the Russian tradition ofrigorous music training isalive andwell, heisless sure that the world prizes classical musicians. Gifted withelastic hands andagreat memory, andaware that “crossover” isamong thehottest words inthemusic business, heembraces jazz. Agood friend, heoften invites less well-known talents toshare his stage. Itisaquest forrelevance andrecognition that idols like Vladimir Horowitz, Emil Gilels orSviatoslav Richter didnotface.
Matsuev himself has lived alife seemingly socharmed that Eric Dahan, writing intheFrench daily Liberation onJan.25, compared ittoafairy tale. Born inJune1975, theonly child oftwo pianists, Matsuev displayed his talent atage3, turning to the instrument athome topick out perfectly atune hehad just heard ontelevision.
At age 9, he gave his first recital; eventually, his parents moved toMoscow (“atiny, one-room apartment, withanupright piano, brand: Tyumen” recalls today's artist, under contract toYamaha) sotheir son could study attheTchaikovsky conservatory. In1993, hewon his first international competition, inJohannesburg; in1997, theprestigious Tchaikovsky competition inMoscow itself.
Since then, critics worldwide have classed him with Yevgeny Kissin andArkady Volodos asthelatest example ofthe abiding andastounding strength ofRussian pianism, andindeed even compared himtoHorowitz.(Agenerally well received CD in2004, his first with amajor recording label, BMG, wascalled simply, “Homage toHorowitz.”) Adebut solo recital atCarnegie Hall awaits inOctober.
At home, Matsuev has played often for President Vladimir Putin, andsits onPutin's Kremlin commission forculture (“we've only had onemeeting, butwewill domore,” said Matsuev). While his wealth bynomeans rivals that ofRussia's business oligarchs, helives very comfortably, currently overseeing therenovation ofa300 square-meter, or3,200 square-foot, apartment near theKremlin.
In between recordings, foreign tours andfrequent performances inRussia, hefinds time— and,most relevant inmodern Moscow, money— toorganize two festivals: “Crescendo,” which began intheRussian capital andhas its fourth iteration inParis this year, and“Stars ofBaikal,” back inhis beloved native Irkutsk. (Matsuev said hemisses Lake Baikal, andsays his favorite pastime isreturning there, catching andgrilling fish ontheshore.)
Other young classical musicians know this kind ofpace, though few ifany areasfamiliar with juggling thestark demands, andthesudden joys, ofRussia. InMatsuev, itseems all part ofastruggle tomake atalent for classical music count inthe21st century.
“An exact recipe doesn't exist,” he said. “Youshould tell that tothepianists, the14– or15–year–old wunderkinds— this isthewhole tragedy, ifwetalk notabout thetalent, butabout theconditions” inwhich itcan berealized.
Growing up, he explained, he and many others believed that “talent will always shine through, andtriumph. Butthis isnotalways the case.”
In Russia, this is due at least in part to changes brought bytheend ofCommunism. Even five years before hewon his first international competition inSouth Africa, Matsuev noted, itwould have been impossible forany Soviet musician totravel abroad andenter such acompetition without specific state sanction.
In the topsy-turvy 1990s, when many Russians endedup losing all their savings, Matsuev's parents took arisk, moving toMoscow without jobs. But their son got astipend formusic studies— aprincely$1,000 amonth from aRussian foundation, New Names— andthat soon conjured its own absurdities.
Matsuev remembers, for instance, having enough money toslip theodd $10todoormen atthePraga restaurant, then oneofMoscow's most prestigious, andthus, while still anunknown teenager, being ushered intoatable ahead oflongtime stars ofscreen andstage.
The change in values in Russia, wh ere culture has always been sorevered that thevery word seems tocarry acapitalC, only reflects larger shifts outside.
In classical music, Matsuev said, international competitions andeven festivals have been devalued orbecome rote andpredictable, andtheSol Yuroks ofbygone days have not been replaced.
“Unfortunately, contemporary managers are needed only tobuy one's air ticket andtobook the hotel room,” he said. They are notready to take onnew names.
“The circles of classical music have really moved,” headded, “and this isthe real pity. Even ifyou have money, andconnections, andabig name - it'snot aguarantee.”
No one factor is really to blame, he added. “There's along line ofthings toname when youask, 'Who killed classical music?' ” hesaid, citing thebook byNorman Lebrecht.
While this may sound jaded, Matsuev exudes energy, enthusiasm andgood humor. At1.92meters tall, or6feet 4inches tall, hestrides onstage briskly, with giant steps. Inthepast 12months, hehas given some 120performances. Heenjoys anight out, andhas theSlav love ofword play— a favorite pastime istreating friends tojokes recorded onhis cellphone.
His thirst to conquer new works is unquenched: heisdetermined tokeep bringing therenowned St.Petersburg conductor Yuri Temirkhanov out totheBaikal festival inIrkutsk; hehas concert schedules andplans mapped out two andthree years ahead.
But there is a constant tussle between creativity andthecommercial pull, thesocializing withbenefactors, andthenew (forRussia) phenomenon ofgossip media. “There aretalents, but they don't really write,” hesaid. “There's more coverage foraconcert ifIcome onamotorbike with ablonde than formy playing.”
In almost every Russian lurks an emotional patriot, andMatsuev isnoexception. “TheRussian audience isthemost difficult intheworld,” hesaid. “Thelove oftheRussian audience youhave towin with your blood, andyour teeth.”
Currently, he observed, classical music can be something ofafad with thenew rich ofMoscow. Themost expensive tickets— roughly $300each— arethefirst tosell out when heperforms. “Everyone's tired ofpop stars,” he said, noting that orchestras such astheVienna Philharmonic command their top fees forperformances inMoscow.
But whether that gives today's young musicians thekind ofinspiration Matsuev drew from, say, attending Horowitz's legendary return concert inMoscow in1986 isfar from clear.
As encores, Matsuev often offers Rachmaninov's Prelude inG sharp minor, Op.32 andScriabin's Etude inEflat minor, Op.8— two ur-Russian pieces Horowitz performed then, totumultuous effect. “Those pieces stayed inmy head,” he said, pointing tohis brain, “and some kind oftrue shift took place there. Thememory ofthis concert still haunts me.”
Although Matsuev staunchly insists that there are great young talents coming behind him inRussia, andhimself showcases other young musicians, thefanatical attention tomusic anddetail that could beobserved, say, inthe1986 audience forHorowitz, orinthefierce debates surrounding theTchaikovsky competition ofold have faded, even inMoscow.
“There was always a golden selection” for the top music schools inRussia, Matsuev noted. Ifthat process gets neglected, thewell oftalent can dryup, hesuggested, comparing ittohis other passion— soccer— and Russia's relative weakness onthefootball field because kids stopped kicking balls around courtyards.
When nurturing talent, perhaps even plaudits areperilous.
Fans frequently gush, “You played like agenius,” Matsuev noted. His father andmother, meanwhile, cantear aperformance toshreds. “My whole success isdue tothem,” headded. “It's our team. Without people around you like that, you arenothing.”
Want to have a good time? Hurry down toMusic Hall tonight andbuy aticket fortheCincinnati Symphony ontheleft-hand side.
Get as close as you can so you can see andhear pianist Denis Matsuev inProkofiev’s Piano Concerto No.3.(You cansee thepianist’s hands ontheleft side ofthehall andwatch theinteraction between Matsuev andCSO assistant conductor Eric Dudley, wholed Friday’s matinee.)
Denis Matsuev's Saturday afternoon recital attheKennedy Center Terrace Theater, part oftheWashington Performing Arts Society's Hayes Piano Series, proved anexhilarating affair.
Matsuev seems to be thevery real thing— anabsolute powerhouse ofapianist, capable ofvanquishing themost technically demanding music intherepertory. The second half oftheprogram contained both Franz Liszt's “Mephisto Waltz” No.1 andIgor Stravinsky's Three Movements From “Petrushka,” back toback; andifMatsuev had only added Maurice Ravel's “Gaspard delaNuit” into themix, hemight have won theworld record forcramming thousands upon thousands ofhammered, torrential, hyperkinetic notes into asingle afternoon.
In the aftershock of the standing ovations, the roars
of the near-capacity crowd, and the reverberation of the electrifying
encores, it seems madness to dare suggest that the performance
of Siberian pianist Denis Matsuev with the RSNO on Saturday night might
not have appealed to all tastes.
My previous monologue ended with my arrival to Moscow where I played concert at the Philharmonic and then flew to Zurich.
In the first airing of my video-blog I mentioned that I will make a very swift trip – so it happened! The next morning I was rehearsing Rachmaninov’s Third Concerto with V. Gergiev and The Zurich opera Orchestra. The main concern was that this orchestra never played this concerto, or played it very long ago. And this concert is rather an orchestra part, almost a symphony, than a usual accompaniment to the soloist. V. Gergiev arrived one day ahead of me and rehearsed with the orchestra without a soloist. Read more...
Giving interviews I often realize that a lot does not fit into an interview format and is left unsaid. Now I want to share with you my thoughts accumulated from the beginning of this year, which started with my personal subscription seasonal concert in Moscow and my USA Tour.
Nikolay Pavlovich Krivomazov, a
close friend of mine and one of the most outstanding representatives of the
Soviet and the Russian press, passed away. I got acquainted with him long ago,
when I went to school, to the secondary school no.1 in Irkutsk, together with his children Misha and
Jenya. Nikolay Pavlovich Krivomazov was a journalist of a world scale. I learnt
a lot from him, we were close friends for a long time, we lived through hard
times together, through the beginning of 1990s, a terrible period in every
respect. Nikolay Pavlovich’s decease is a great loss and a hard blow for
everyone who knew him. Last year, which seems so close, he wrote an article
about me for “Komsomolskaya Pravda”…