Norman Lebrecht thinks that Denis Matsuev has solved the puzzle of Shostakovich's concertos.

March 11 2012

Norman Lebrecht, the famous music expert, critic and writer, the author of “Who killed classical music” bestseller, has listened to the latest Denis Matsuev’s release and named it “the CD of the week”. On this CD Denis and the Mariinsky orchestra headed by Valery Gergiev perform Shostakovich, Piano concerto no.1 and no.2 and also Shchedrin, Piano concerto no.5. Norman Lebrecht states in his review that Matsuev managed to come close to the solution of the Shostakovich’s concertos puzzle."The concertos date from either end of the composer’s span and are equal in neither temperament nor intent. The first was written for himself to play, the second for his son, Maxim. They are personal, intimate, riddled with coded references.The first, in C minor, was written in 1933, just after he had finished his opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsenk and before Stalin’s terror attack on it. Like the 24 preludes, its preceding work, it owes much to Bach and Stravinsky but also (as Leonid Gakkel points out in an exemplary programme note) to the long, brave adagio of Mahler’s third symphony.The second, in F major, written 24 years later, appears on paper to be a textbook celebration of Soviet success, produced for the revolution’s 40th anniversary. Once again, however, the subtext points to Stravinsky and Mahlerian irony. What the commissars heard as glory is readily mistaken for scorn.Neither is a virtuoso vehicle and, the composer apart, there is no pianist who has stamped these works decisively as his or her own. Denis Matsuev, a Siberian who made his name in Rachmaninov is perhaps the first to come close. He has recorded them before with Maris Jansons, Yuri Temirkanov and a degree of restraint. Here, Valery Gergiev lets him off the leash and Masuev, with dazzling lightness and rude flashes of wit, finds the layered contrasts in Shostakovich that add a puzzle-solving dimension to the pleasure of his performance. He follows with the sardonic fifth concerto by Rodion Shchedrin, dating from the post Soviet chaos of 1999. Gergiev’s Mariinsky Orchestra has trumpeter Timur Martynov in the opening work. Simply, the best yet."The review was taken from Norman Lebrecht’s column.

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