Review: Tchaikovsky: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2/Denis Matsuev, piano/Mariinsky Orchestra conducted by Valery Gergiev

March 7 2014

This Mariinsky CD includes Concertos 1 and 2. The Concerto No. 1, not too popular at the first performance, has become the benchmark for today’s virtuoso display. I recently heard it live with Bronfman and Dudamel in Los Angeles; it never loses its appeal. Matsuev manages much of Bronfman’s power, but under the critical ear of the microphone, his technique is flawless and Gergiev accompanies beautifully. Only one flat horn phrase in the 2nd Concerto suggests that the Mariinsky Orchestra is almost the completed project. As such, it fares better than some of the recent Shostakovich Symphonies — same conductor, recording company, and hall.

The poor old 2nd Concerto receives the same wonderful musical treatment. Tchaikovsky preferred it to the 1st. To me, it’s rhapsodic and lovely but pales to its predecessor as a concerted work. Luckily, the CD is worth the price for the fantastic performance of the First Concerto. Happily, lovers of the 2nd Concerto will not be disappointed.

The recording is dynamic, is SACD encoded and portrays the piano realistically in the new Mariinsky Concert Hall. The hall’s acoustics have received rave reviews and show beautifully here. Highly recommended.

Anthony Kershaw


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