Excerpts from reviews of performances of Denis Matsuev in Chicago with Yuri Temirkanov, the Symphony Orchestra of the Baltimore and Chicago Symphony Orchestra
March 26 2016
No one denies that Matsuev commands as huge a technical arsenal as any pianist on the planet, or that he can vanquish Rachmaninov's most daunting keyboard writing with a nonchalant shrug. The crowd adored his virtuoso prowess…
Chicago Classical Review
Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 took up the first half of the evening—a rare occurrence since the beloved keyboard showpiece invariably winds up hard to top.
Matsuev’s technical arsenal is as complete as any pianist currently before the public yet the opening minutes of Thursday’s performance were so restrained as to seem almost offhand. Matsuev clearly sees the cadenza as the climax of the first movement–the “point” as Rachmaninoff called it–and his full-metal assault on the longer cadenza was explosive in its power and massive bravura.
The soloist brought stoic elegance to the main theme of the Intermezzo as well as a wry vivacity to the scherzando middle section. The solo burst that launches the finale was daunting in its fire and attack. Others have plumbed more light and shade in the concluding movement but Matsuev’s relentless buildup of momentum and sonority was undeniably thrilling, accelerating to a thunderous and virtuosic coda.
Matsuev earned one of the longest and most rousing ovations of the season with repeated curtain calls. Finally, he relented with an encore of Liadov’s A Musical Snuffbox, teasing out the music box delicacy with gentle charm and a deliciously halting rubato.
The pianist, in an overdue visit 12 years after his last appearance with the BSO, made child's play of the score's ferocious technical demands and used the leftover energy to add welcome expressive nuance. There was an organic, inevitable quality to Matsuev's playing, which was warm-hearted without turning sentimental.