Gergiev, His Russians, and a Toothpick Storm Berkeley
November 7 2017
Seen and Heard International
Prokofiev’s Second Piano Concerto sneaks up on an audience. Matsuev made it dance gracefully over the opening music-box phrases, perfectly setting up the ferociously complex, dissonant and rhythmically obsessive gestures that later pepper the score. He managed to get a robust tone out of the Steinway, stopping short of clanging on these hammering phrases. The result carried the audience along, anticipating the next climax instead of dreading it. Both conductor and pianist relished Prokofiev’s prankster-like wit, quite different from Shostakovich’s barely concealed snarl.
For an encore, Matsuev dialed back the intensity for some delicate and refined Rachmaninov, the Études-Tableaux, Op.39.