"Rachmaninov’s better battered"

January 2 2012

Michael Tumelty, "The Herald"

October 30, 2006

In the aftershock of the standing ovations, the roars of the near-capacity crowd, and the reverberation of the electrifying encores, it seems madness to dare suggest that the performance of Siberian pianist Denis Matsuev with the RSNO on Saturday night might not have appealed to all tastes.

But for those who like to hear interpretations of Rachmaninov's Third Piano Concerto that are essentially dark and mellow, Matsuev's powerhouse playing, with its thunderous volume and hammered clarity, might have seemed to originate in the clatter-and-batter school of Russian pianism.

Except for one thing. Matsuev tempered his power-lift playing with levels of poetry and delicacy that were almost exquisite: at the outset, in the slow movement, and in the beautiful duets with flute and horn in the finale.

Whatever your taste, it was a staggering feat of pianism, topped by Matsuev's madcap version, for his climactic encore, of Grieg's In the Hall of the Mountain King, spraying lunatic clusters, dissonances and wild glissandi all over the audience, which then brought the house down.

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