Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 1 - Matsuev, Gergiev

Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 1 - Matsuev, Gergiev

Mariinsky  MAR0587

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral

Denis Matsuev (piano)
Mariinsky Orchestra
Valery Gergiev (conductor)

Denis Matsuev showcases works for piano and orchestra by three of Russia's greatest composers. Renowned for interpretations of music from his homeland, and affectionately known as 'the Siberian Bear with the fastest paws in the Arctic', Matsuev's previous releases on the Mariinsky Label, including Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No 3 and Rhapsody on a Theme of Pagnini, have received widespread acclaim.

Piano Concerto No 1 was written whilst Rachmaninov was still a teenager and though relatively playful in comparison to his other piano concertos, its three movements are full of the showmanship, beautiful melodies and lush orchestral accompaniment that were to characterise his music in the years to come. A similarly playful tone can be found in the revised 1949 edition of Stravinsky's Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra, which premiered in 1949 with the composer at the piano. Written as a virtuosic vehicle for Stravinsky himself, the piece is characterised by a dancing piano part, full of leaps and bounding with energy. Completing this release is Shchedrin's Piano Concerto No 2, recorded in the presence of the composer, which influenced by twelve-tone techniques and jazz. Virtuosic writing is a feature throughout, and the final movement sees the surprise introduction of a jazz ensemble, including vibraphone and drum kit.

Speaking about this release, Denis Matsuev says ' we wanted to show Great Russian composers from different periods.' Rachmaninov's First Piano Concerto is one of my favourites. It was written whilst he studied at the Moscow Conservatory and despite his young age he managed to reveal himself as a great artist. Capriccio is a brilliant work with a wonderful sense of humour. It is also very cinematic; one can envisage this music whilst listening to it and we tried to communicate all of these features to the audience. Shchedrin is a very special composer in the Russian tradition. He takes an active part in rehearsals; we have an opportunity to talk to him, to exchange ideas and listen to his advice. It is a priceless experience.'

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DSD recording

Philipp Nedel producer, editor, mixing & mastering
Martin Kistner & Fyodor Naumov recording engineers

Recorded live in DSD, November 2014 and April 2015 in the concert hall of the Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg
Reviews (1)

Review by Graham Williams - September 12, 2015

For his latest release Denis Matsuev has had the interesting idea to present three works for piano and orchestra from three different generations of Russian composers on this SACD and, since the performances and recordings are uniformly excellent, this is a most satisfying programme.

Matsuev immediately demonstrates his virtuoso credentials in a scorching account of Rachmaninov's 1st Piano Concerto in its usual 1917 revision. The outer movements leave one breathless with the pianistic fireworks on display, yet in the central 'Andante' he is able to bring great romantic warmth and delicacy to the music with his nuanced playing. Since Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra seem to be fired by Matsuev's enthusiasm, their alert accompaniment is both thrilling and, where appropriate, caressingly sensitive. The conductor's idiomatic moulding of the romantic theme with which the Concerto opens being a case in point.

Stravinsky's Capriccio that follows is equally impressive. Matsuev really brings out the humour in this witty piece while the powerful contribution of the players of the Mariinsky Orchestra gives Stravinsky's sparkling orchestration a definite Russian feel.

Finally we have the 2nd Piano Concerto of Rodion Shchedrin. This was written in 1966 and is one of the composer's most inventive pieces. Though it flirts with the music of the European avant- garde of the time by using a twelve-tone theme in the opening movement 'Dialogues', it sounds closer to Prokofiev than any serialist composition. This is especially true in the driving toccata-like second movement 'Improvisations' that Matsuev dispatches with considerable aplomb. The final movement 'Contrasts' is a compositional tour de force during which Shchedrin introduces a jazz combo between passages of tremendous rhythmic energy. The present recording is dedicated to the memory of the ballerina Maya Plisetskaya (1925 -2015) Shchedrin's wife and dedicatee of this Concerto who passed away shortly after the making of this recording.

An alternative version on SACD by Mark-Andre Hamelin Shostakovich: Piano Concertos 1-2 - Hamelin, Litton is equally recommendable as an interpretation but is nowhere near as well recorded as this one.

All three works were recorded live in the Concert Hall of the Mariinsky Theatre by the excellent team of Philipp Nedel (b-sharp), Martin Kistner and Fyodor Naumov. The 5.0 DSD multi-channel is one of the most vivid I have heard from this label and is worthy of Matsuev and Gergiev's exciting partnership.

Copyright © 2015 Graham Williams and


Sonics (Multichannel):

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Comments (2)

Comment by hiredfox - October 24, 2015 (1 of 2)

Totally agree with Graham. Gramophone dismissed this disc as a typical performance by a Russian pianist, lacking grace and subtlety with power being the over-riding characteristic. I didn't agree with them then and do not do so now having spun the disc quite a few times. This must be surely the definitive version on SACD and a must-have.

Comment by Iain - August 31, 2016 (2 of 2)


The initial attraction here were the Stravinsky and Shchedrin for me, not being familiar of any Rachmaninov works. This was a few months ago; now I find I quite like PC1 and find Matsuev an accomplished pianist.

Getting ready now to download Channel Classics PC2 with Dejan Lazic and the Marinsky PC3 with Matsuev, as well. More to come.