Gergiev and Matsuev showcase commanding virtuosity with Mariinsky Orchestra

February 8 2015

Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 2 is a more intricate and technically demanding work than the oft-played First Concerto, yet it is vintage and mature Tchaikovsky, filled with melodic riches and pyrotechnical challenges. For many years, the concerto was played and recorded in a shortened, modified version by pianist-composer Alexander Siloti. Happily Gergiev and soloist Denis Matsuev offered Tchaikovsky’s complete original score. 

Matsuev ‘s big-boned, take-no-prisoners playing swept through the rapid-fire passages and hand crossings of the opening Allegro brilliante with devilish verve. The movement has two cadenzas, the second Lisztian in its demonic speed and fury. Playing with spot-on precision and blazing technique, Matsuev’s hands were a blur across the keyboard. Gergiev was sensitive to the imperial grandeur of Tchaikovsky’s balletic melodies, finely detailing the elegant wind and string writing.

The Andante non troppo second movement is almost a chamber trio for violin, cello and piano, its principal theme one of Tchaikovsky’s most hauntingly beautiful creations. Matsuev’s lovely tone and wide dynamic range was matched by the sweet, aristocratic violin of concertmaster Stanislav Izmaylov. The light, restrained playing of cellist Oleg Sendetsky melded with violin and piano like the finely etched teamwork of a top chamber ensemble. It would be hard to imagine any pianist playing the Allegro con fuoco finale faster than Matsuev’s breakneck pace but he also captured the music’s lightness and syncopation.

Repeated curtain calls and bravos brought Matsuev back for a characteristic jazz encore of Oscar Peterson riffs on Duke Ellington standards with the pianist’s added embellishments.

Lawrence BudmenSouth Florida Classica Review
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