"Matsuev in the Palace of Arts"

January 2 2012

Mátyás Szöllösi , Kultúra.hu October, 23, 2011It is very clear that Matsuev’s biggest weapon is his strength; the energy, generated by his frame, his physical build, which at the same time is coupled with a musicality that lends a near-perfect foundation for the interpretation of certain pieces, including some of Liszt’s works. This is the treat, or should I say treats (three of them to start with) that were enjoyed in liberal amounts by those who were lucky enough to attend the concert on October 22, the bicentenary of Ferenc Liszt’s birth at the Palace of Arts and listen to the performance of the Russian pianist, who is still marked as a young artist. His trademark strength, energy and dynamism have been noticed by many, but luckily and naturally Denis Matsuev is also evolving and changing. The general feedback on his previous concerts in Hungary stressed his unique skills on the one hand, also adding that important elements and details were paled and overshadowed by his dynamism and energy. Probably it was these nuances and passages; the display of the real substance that the Russian pianist was lacking somewhat, but there are also other things that we should and must ‘talk’ about. The first part featured two pieces, Piano Concerto No. 1 (in E-flat major) and Danse Macabre, the latter representing a special dimension even within the Liszt oeuvre. But first things first. It seems that Piano Concerto No. 1 was rendered in the most matured fashion (it’s difficult to tell whether that boosted the evening’s success or not). I think it has also something to do with the musical composition itself, because the main theme is practically present throughout, the highly uniform structure provides a certain security and does (or can) inject an extra dose of self-confidence into the performer. Besides the above characteristics, the second, slow movement was rather refined. Although I only had the pleasure of listening Matsuev play live once before, this time he was better in convincing me that he can not ‘only’ cover things up, but also bring them to the surface; what’s more, mesmerise me. Danse Macabre, however, was less homogeneous, but how could it have been otherwise? Of course, this does not refer to the piece itself, but rather to the way it was performed in the second half of the first part. The beginning and the end provided a steady frame to the piece, but the orchestra was wavering at times, although that was probably due to the tempo, dictated by the pianist. Unlike Piano Concerto No. 1, this piece was dominated by Denis Matsuev’s variations on the theme and the performance of subtle nuances was less mature than previously, although in this case it should not be considered as an imperfection. He exploded with an overwhelming force wherever it was needed and was in full control throughout. Alternating variations and the explosive finish gave Matsuev an excellent opportunity to showcase his dominance and the glissandos, together with the accompanying gestures, were proof as to why he chose to celebrate the bicentenary with these works. It was truly enjoyable to witness the way he excluded the outside world, but at the same time responded every so often to the fine tuned performance of the Danubia Symphony Orchestra. You try to read people’s reactions in the break, find out how they view the performance and guess the impressions of those you meet. I must add that I did not see many bored faces this evening. The pianist’s energetic return to the stage was welcomed with roaring applause. He continued the performance just as energetically, but it seemed that the Piano Concerto No. 2 in A major, especially the first movements, were less suited for his character, compared with Concerto no. 1 and Danse Macabre. He dictated an incredible pace throughout the evening. Before we knew it, Piano Concerto No. 2 was over, acknowledged by a tremendous ovation of course. Many of us probably wondered before the concert as to what encores would Matsuev treat us to, because encores with his reinterpretations and jazzy style are individual parts or events in themselves and it was no different tonight. He played Lyadov and Scriabin, and what was very reassuring and also thought-provoking is his deliberate choice of contrasting pieces that were almost playful or humoresque-like at times. The last piece of Grieg’s Per Gynt (In the Hall of the Mountain King) was performed in a very unique interpretation. It was captivating to listen to his improvisations and witness the confidence with which he handled his instrument. In spite of the roaring standing ovation, the Russian musician did not return for a fifth encore to the Béla Bartók National Concert Hall, but afterwards he was happy to sign treasured concert relics.

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