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Denis Matsuev

available at Amazon
Carnegie Hall Concert (Schumann, Liszt, Prokofiev), D. Matsuev

(released on October 20, 2009)
RCA Red Seal 8697291462 | 78'35"
Piano virtuoso Denis Matsuev, winner of the 11th International Tchaikovsky Competition, will come to Washington next month, for an appearance with the National Symphony Orchestra (February 18 to 20). The program, conducted by James Gaffigan, is somewhat of a snore for my taste, except for the chance to hear Lera Auerbach's Requiem for Icarus. Still, it is clear from the writing of many critics that Matsuev is a contender, and I had better take the chance to hear him play after missing his last local appearance, with the National Philharmonic of Russia at George Mason last spring. (He will play the Rachmaninoff second concerto, timed to coincide with the release of his new recording of the third piano concerto and the Paganini Rhapsody, with Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra, next month.)

Matsuev's recital at Carnegie Hall in November 2007, captured for RCA in this high-quality live recording, demonstrated the Russian pianist's extraordinary technical prowess and his dramatic propensity as a showman. Writing about Matsuev's 2006 recital at the Terrace Theater, Jens singled out his excessive on-stage gyrations, and there is a similar sense of ostentatious self-display in the interpretative choices, too. The little miniatures of the opening work, Schumann's Kinderszenen, are heavily manipulated, as if spun to give each movement its own sheen, a disruptively incisive process intended to reveal new facets. The same is true of Matsuev's readings of Liszt's B minor sonata and Prokofiev's seventh sonata, but the effect is less noticeable because the technical demands are so much greater. The results do not seem to have proceeded from the question "What are these pieces trying to tell me?" but from "What can I, Denis Matsuev, say about these pieces that will set off this performance as unique"? Very impressive pianism, to be sure, but less technically proficient versions, played with less of a personal stamp and a less erratic sense of rhythmic pulse (another of Matsuev's tics), have pleased more.

While Steve Smith in a rather rapturous review in the New York Times, which is quoted in the liner notes, listed five encores played at this recital, a Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody and a Rachmaninoff prelude do not make it to disc (the mention of a Stravinsky encore in Marina Gaykovich's liner essay must be an error). Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz No. 1 was also cut from the main program in the recording.

Denis Matsuev will perform Rachmaninoff's second piano concerto with the National Symphony Orchestra on February 18 to 20. The following day (!), Matsuev will play another recital at Carnegie Hall (February 21, 8 pm), this time featuring Tchaikovsky's Seasons and Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition.


Symphonic Voyages said...

Thank you for your review. Just added this release to my list. Wish I could catch Denis Matseuv when he's in NY.

jfl said...

I should point out that Gaffigan was singularly spectacular in a boring program in Munich. He's a conductor to watch.

Charles T. Downey said...

Something else to look forward to -- thanks, Jens!

Tina Coffron said...

Anyone knows the name of the piece he played during encore on Feb 19?