Matsuev: A Pianist Aglow
December 27 2011
St Petersburg Philharmonic in Bridgewater Hall, Sunday
Denis Matsuev is a pianist you write home about—immediately. His technique has reached such an inexorably virtuosic height that it passes you by, endowing you instead with his commanding presence and a glowing sense of revelations.
Replacing the indisposed Brazilian pianist Nelson Freire, the 27 year-old Siberian soloed with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra on Thursday at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall under conductor Roberto Abbado in Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No.2, Op.18. The performance was met with lengthy, thunderous applause, a warmer response than given by those audiences who instantly and ungracefully pop to their feet after every performance.
While clearly listening to the orchestra’s role, Matsuev gloried in shaping lesser musical elements, intensifying his conceptual and emotional momentum to define the overall structure of all three movements of the Rachmaninoff. Under Abbado’s telling direction, the orchestra responded with lustrous finesse to every bit of meaning Matsuev gave to the piece, in effect re-creating a musical war horse.
Abbado opened the evening with Steven Stucky's sonority-sensitive “Son et Lumiere”, commissioned and premiered by the BSO in 1989. While a glossy exhibition of orchestral timbre beautifully played, it sounded only random, a rehash of a long-outmoded language. Bartok’s Concerto for orchestra also explores somewhere and says something — even more so with BSO strings seething passion, the winds’ luminescent solos, and the regal punch of the brass ensembles.
Cecelia Porter, "Washington Post"