"Reliable draws brighten CSO Ravinia starts"

January 2 2012

John von Rhein, "Chicago Tribune"

July, 12, 2008

Thursday's concert brought more soloistic excitement even as the storm gods drenched the park and its brave patrons. Denis Matsuev, the greatly gifted young Russian pianist who was making his Ravinia debut, had lightning bolts of his own to hurl in Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto.

Matsuev, winner of the 1998 Tchaikovsky Piano Competition, has much in common with Vladimir Horowitz: the flaring virtuosity, the range of sonority going from a golden whisper to a mighty roar. But Matsuev seems to command equal reserves of intelligent musicianship and fiery showmanship. The fact was driven home by the commanding sweep that carried him from the supple articulation of the opening theme, through the sonorous majesty of the big chordal cadenza, to his nonchalant vanquishing of the gnarled thickets of fast-moving notes later on.

If some of his blistering assaults smudged some passages, this was tremendously exciting and engaging playing, matched by red-blooded orchestral work. Matsuev's encore, Rachmaninoff's Prelude in G Minor, served to preview the all-Rachmaninoff solo recital he will give Thursday in the Martin Theater. 

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