Denis Matsuev

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The LSO and Gergiev in Brahms and Szymanowski 4

The first half of the 20th century must surely be one of the most richly creative periods in history. This was a time of great social and political change, spearheaded by two most devastating wars that saw death and destruction on a new level of cold efficiency. Rising from the ashes of this massive upheaval, the arts produced a glorious outpouring of works and ideas not seen since the renaissance and never on this scale. In the world of music, the flowering of talented composers born in the last quarter of the 19th century, produced an embarrassment of riches, to such an extent that it was possible to consign a composer as talented as Szymanowski to the second rank.

Following in the footsteps of Simon Rattle and Charles Dutoit, it is all credit to Valery Gergiev that he is also championing this miraculous, if still peripheral, composer. To hear this music so luxuriously played by the London Symphony Orchestra seemed like the perfect way to experience it. This music has a surface richness and virtuosity that cries out for a first-rate orchestra and a conductor in tune with the toughness at its core – certainly delivered in spades, in this most memorable concert.

Two works by Szymanowski occupied the substantial first half of the evening. Both late works, they show the composer at his most rounded and contained, while not losing that essential wildness and rapturous quality which are unique to him. The oddly categorised Symphony no. 4, “Symphonie Concertante” of 1932 is a piano concerto in all but name and as such easily stands up to comparison with the great works by Bartók and Prokofiev of the same period. As performed by Gergiev and his powerful pianist Denis Matsuev, this was a performance that struck one as energetic and bold, but also giving time for the work to breathe and expand as needed. In the first movement, the balance between the ruminative opening subject and the more dynamic second group of ideas was nicely maintained and the overall effect was passionate but organic. Matusev found just the right level of forcefulness and melting delicacy.

This latter quality was much in evidence in the second movement with its piano part gently accompanying solos from the strings and woodwind, while always being somehow in control of the musical flow. In the great central climax the sense of elation overflows into a great string melody, which once again melts into the piano roulades, all beautifully judged by Gergiev and Matsuev. In the final movement all these positive musical qualities once again surfaced to produce and an exciting and satisfying conclusion to an excellent performance of an inspired work. The frenetic Polish highland dance that ends the work took the breath away with its controlled power.

The secret to performing Szymanowski’s music, so clearly understood by Gergiev in these performances, is to hold onto that fine line between classical restraint and total abandon and then to make it all sound completely spontaneous. This he and his soloist Leonidas Kavakos achieved even more successfully in their performance of the Violin Concerto no. 2 that followed. Perhaps a greater work that the symphony and possibly its composer’s best work, this concerto has all the ingredients that make Szymanowski so exceptional. Gergiev and Kavakos certainly got to its core.

Once again, it’s all about balance, and Kavakos took as his starting point a reasonable mid-point of restraint. The opening passage was warm but not effusive, and this mesmerising stillness once created, he was able to return to it as the music required. At other times he opened out with a lusher sound, or in tougher folk dance passages, he would dazzle with rock-solid rhythmic impetus and thrilling double-stopping. The ebb and flow of this piece was so wonderfully captured, that I’m sure many of the audience left this performance wondering why the they hadn’t heard it before and or why it wasn’t in the repertoire of most concert violinists.

And then we ended with the Brahms. Odd bedfellows, you might think, but somehow it worked. Brahms is another composer that needs a fine balancing act between restraint and passion, and the Symphony no. 4 is the most perfect example of this duality in his orchestral music. If performed as it was by the Gergiev and the LSO, it sounded strangely reminiscent of Wagner or Bruckner, but with many fewer of the former’s longueurs or the obsessive “logic” of the latter. It certainly put paid to Britten’s insistence that Brahms’ music was “dull”, “stolid”, “pretentious”. There was not, as you might be forgiven for expecting, a touch of Tchaikovsky or even a Russian accent.

The first movement tempo seemed initially to be a little leisurely, but then it became obvious that Gergiev’s overall conception was to emphasise the grand sweep, leading the inevitably to the climatic coda.

Submitted by Chris Garlick on 17th December 2012


Classical Review: IPO No Mere Substitute

Except for regretting Kurt Masur’s unfortunate accident that prevented him from conducting the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra’s concert last week, there was no reason for disappointment with Doron Salomon as substitute.

Russian pianist Denis Matsuev’s performance of Brahns’ Piano Concerto No. 1 was electrifying. He is a veritable bombshell of temperament, radiating passion, intensity of expression, and excitement. Powerfully convincing though his outbursts are, there is nothing exaggerated or showy about them. Not even the slightest fleeting detail is neglected, tempi are subtly flexible with no trace of rigidity, climactic highlights are significantly accentuated, nuances of dynamics are abundant, and technically demanding runs are meticulously polished.

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ICMA nomination

Shostakovich Piano Concertos Nos 1 & 2 and Shchedrin Piano Concerto No 5 has been nominated for an International Classical Music Award (ICMA) in the Concerto category. The Award Ceremony and Gala concert will take place in Milan, 18 March 2013.


The composition of the Culture and Arts Presidential Council was approved

Today the decree of the President of Russia V. Putin about the composition  

of the Culture and Arts Presidential Council was published.

58 cultural figures form it. The presidium consists of 15 members. Among them the adviser to the President Vladimir Tolstoy, the director of cinema concern "Mosfilm" Karen Shakhnazarov, the Hermitage Museum director Mikhail Piotrovsky, the president of the Moscow Performing Arts Centre Vladimir Spivakov.

Among members of the Council are the Director of the Maryinsky Theater in St. Petersburg Valery Gergiev, the president of the Union of Theatrical Figures of Russia Alexander Kalyagin, the artistic director of the Moscow Art Theatre Oleg Tabakov, the conductor Yury Bashmet, the editor-in-chief of "Kultura" TV-channel Sergey Shumakov and the pianist Denis Matsuev.

And traditionally all those members form the Board of trustees of "Kultura" TV-channel.

Annecy Music Festival

The Fifth Annecy Classical Music Festival is approaching. During these five years that have flown by so fast, the festival has already become traditional. 

I’d like to share an interesting observation from my life with you: I’ve noticed that seasons of the year sound for me like the festivals that are held during these months. And if September is Irkutsk and “Stars on Baikal” or London and “Proms”, January – “Christmas meetings” in Irkutsk, March-April - Easter Festival, June - St. Petersburg and “Stars of the White Nights”, July is Verbier, Salzburg and Ravinia, August is definitely Annecy. 

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Denis Matsuev is the featured artist in next season’s UBS Soundscapes: LSO Artist Portrait series

Fruitful cooperation of Denis Matsuev with LSO continues. "It is the great honour to me to be selected the resident artist of the new season and to perform with one of the best orchestras of the world under baton of my friend Valery Gergiev. The season will be opened with concerts at the Barbican Hall with Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto #2 on September, 21 and Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto #3 on September, 23. Two more concerts in London will take place in November, I’ll perform Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto #2. We will visit together a huge number of countries in Europe (Italy, Slovakia, Greece, France and others), Australia and Singapore. The programme includes Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto #2, - said Denis Matsuev - I invite all to these concerts."


Blog #26

Yesterday absolutely unusual improvised concert took place. I repeat time after time that the best concert always is based on improvisation, and this concert was a proof of that. Unexpectedly I found myself in Drvengrad, cultural oasis, created by the efforts of one man - Emir Kusturica. He really managed to create his own planet of art, which attracts creative people from all over the world. I experienced emotional upheaval of what I saw here. Every detail in this village is somehow connected to work and life of Kusturica. There is a street of Fellini and a street of Diego Maradona. The wooden town almost all is the scenery for the movie "Life is a Miracle," which was filmed here. Wooden, very picturesque, in folk style huts. It is a unique ethno village, that makes a strong impression on every visitor.

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DVD and BlueRay edition of the Closing Ceremony of Annecy Classic Music Festival 2013

This DVD-record was made at the closing ceremony of the classical music Annecy Classic Festival 2013, at which I’ve been working as artistic director for already four years, I am very pleased that this festival has such a powerful development during this time, and it really got into the elite of European festivals. I think that first of all it was due to the fact that we have managed to gather friends and create a great team. "Friends" and "team" are key words, as in everyday life, and in cultural, festival, concert life. Of course, one of the main factors of this success is the fact that for four years one of the most outstanding conductors Y. Temirkanov with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra has come to us, in Annecy, for these four years and that the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra is the resident orchestra of the festival. 

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Reviews on American Tour of Denis Matsuev

Pianist Denis Matsuev’s power overwhelms

Even in today’s overrun piano virtuoso market, Denis Matsuev stands out. On the evidence of his recordings, he possesses an epic technique, playing with seemingly superhuman speed, power, and agility.

At his Saturday recital in Harvard’s Sanders Theatre, it was pleasant to discover that Matsuev can also produce the kind of singing tone and silvery pianissimo most pianists only dream about.

In his curtain-raiser, Matsuev responded with grace and swagger to the impish brilliance of Haydn’s Sonata in E-flat major, Hob. XVI: 52. The masterly second movement showed Matsuev at something like his best, demonstrating suave phrasing and extraordinary tonal refinement.

Boston Globe

Seth Herbst 

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On My American Tour

I’ve just completed my long awaited American tour. These concerts were postponed, because in January I fell ill with pneumonia. For me it is, of course, was a shock, because I was forced to reschedule concerts for the first time in my life. I love concert halls both in Washington and in New York, I love American public. And I was absolutely frustrated also because I knew that all tickets were sold out, I knew that people were waiting for these concerts.

I would like to linger round the solo concert at the legendary Carnegie Hall. When people say "legendary halls", this is just about the Carnegie Hall, it was opened by P.I. Tchaikovsky. And Rachmaninoff has performed more than a hundred concerts on this scene. Carnegie Hall is a landmark place for any musician, and, of course, every appearance on this stage is a huge responsibility and a unique pleasure. My debut album was a recording of a concert from Carnegie Hall. I have over two dozen performances here, and each time I feel awe.

This year my friend, Executive and artistic Director of Carnegie Hall, Sir Clive Gillinson invited me to take part in the three concerts of a series "Carnegie Hall presents". This concert was part of a series "Keyboard Virtuosos", in which I found myself in the company of wonderful musicians performing at Carnegie Hall during this musical season. I thought over the program for this concert really thoroughly, as I was aware of all the responsibility to the American public, which I love and good attitude of which I cherish. The atmosphere at the concert itself was fascinating; I was got a lot of positive energy and emotions from the audience.

As it happens all the time after the concerts in Carnegie Hall, I got a lot of enemies. Tickets for the concert were sold out, so not all comers were lucky to get them. Unfortunately, there was nothing I could do about it. In Russia, knowing how it is important for many people to come to classic music concerts, I always manage to solve the problem with tickets somehow (to get tickets to the gallery or just put the chairs on the stage that happens more and more often recently). Unfortunately, it is impossible variant for Carnegie Hall, because of the traditions and original peculiarities of the hall. Therefore, those who has not got to the concert this time, I solemnly promise to inform you about the dates of future concerts in Carnegie Hall, which will take place in January 2015, where you all are invited.

Once again I would like to thank the administration of Carnegie Hall and New York public for the incredible emotions and warm welcome!

I convey my greetings to all, I am now in Luxembourg, tomorrow - Paris, the day after tomorrow I'll be in St. Petersburg with Valery Gergiev at his festival, so this wonderful madness continues.

Concert Over Controversy

To get the geopolitical controversy out of the way first: Acclaimed Russian pianist Denis Matsuev says he does not regret signing a document that voiced support for President Vladimir Putin’s position on Russia’s annexation of Crimea. The document, which was published in mid-March on the Web site of Russia’s Ministry of Culture, and which also endorsed Putin’s stance on Ukraine in general, attracted signatures from world-famous conductor Valery Gergiev, Bolshoi Theatre general director Vladimir Urin and other members of Russia’s artistic elite, prompting some dismay within and outside the country.

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I’d like to congratulate my very close friend, my elder brother, a brilliant maestro Gergiev on his birthday!

I am proud of being his friend, I am proud that we have such a unique conductor, who every day devotes himself to art of music on a stage, enlightens the minds of lots of people. 

I wish him to remain in the crazy tempo he got used to, as this tempo allows him to create absolutely genius interpretations, which will live in hearts and minds of his audience all over the world for years on.

Bravo, Maestro!

Happy birthday!

Review of the disc "Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No 3; Symphony No 5"

Tie yourself and your valuables down. Denis Matsuev and Valery Gergiev take a dangerous, open-top sports car approach to Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto. The sharpness of the attack, the delight in clashing sonorities, and the sheer raciness of the approach make the music so exciting it’s almost exhausting to listen to. Matsuev’s command is astonishing, in a performance that unflinchingly aligns the piece to the daunting world of the composer’s Second Concerto.

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