Notes and Editorial Reviews
THE CARNEGIE HALL CONCERT
Denis Matsuev (pn)
RCA 88697291462 (78:35) Live: New York 11/2007
Sonata in b.
Sonata No. 7 in B?,
The Musical Snuff-Box,
Etude in d?
In the Hall of the Mountain King
He has been called the “next Horowitz,” though I’ll wager that Horowitz never had the strength of Denis Matsuev. Now the fifth album of the formidable virtuoso is available, a live concert from Carnegie Hall no less, evidently recorded in one take. As far as I can tell, this is the entire concert sans one Stravinsky encore.
Matsuev has chosen well albeit somewhat dangerously for this debut, though the record proves he is more than up to the challenge. Schumann’s
is not a work that usually opens a program because it has relatively little thunder, lots of contrast, and confounds audience expectations for an initial hearing of a new artist. I am sure the Carnegie audience was expecting thunder and got poetry instead. Matsuev proves himself the gentle giant in this work, reining in any tendencies to turn Schumann into Beethoven, and for the most part rendering the work in an affable and engaging manner.
In fact, the last number of the set, “The Poet Speaks,” dovetails nicely into Liszt’s monumental opus almost as if that composer had taken his cue from Schumann. But not many bars pass when we hear what we came for, and truly this man is capable of some astounding virtuoso pianism that practically redefines the word. I have never heard Liszt’s propulsive and thunderous octaves sound like this before; in fact, I don’t remember hearing such an enormous and singly percussive sound from the instrument since hearing Jorge Bolet play the
overture at Indiana University back in 1973. This is so loud and so powerful that one fears the piano will come crashing down to the ground, and I am not at all convinced that the piano does in fact hold up well. RCA captures the sound of the piano and the hall quite effectively, but the percussive tsunami that Matsuev unleashes here distorts the tonal quality of the instrument; I was almost surprised that he didn’t stop between sections and have a tuner come out on stage. But this is a very good performance, almost eclipsing my favorite, that of Emil Gilels on RCA Living Stereo. Gilels also had this sort of power in his heyday—or at least close—but reveled in his own poetic instincts in the same manner that Matsuev does.
The Prokofiev is not a work one associates with poetry; instead it is a mechanistic beast of the industrial age. Sviatoslav Richter premiered the work in 1943 after having learned it in four days. It does represent a world out of focus, and not only that but actively committed to a certain type of inhuman mania that creeps up every century or so. But for all that, it never ceases to excite and thrill listeners, possibly because in the end it does strike a hopeful note, though after a lot of struggle, something those in the Soviet Union at the time of the Great Patriotic War would certainly understand. Matsuev is on top of this one as well, ferociously committed to its unflagging anti-sentimentality. Though Richter will always have an authority here (Archipel), and Argerich turns in a barn-burner as well (EMI), this one has to be ranked with the very best.
The three encores given are but teasers—one would love to hear some extended Scriabin from this man, this short étude offering but a glimpse of his impetuous way with the music, while the Liadov and Grieg are simply contrasting icings on one cake. RCA catches the vast dynamic range of this artist as well as anyone can, and it’s quite a ride. You won’t fall asleep during this one, that’s a promise.
FANFARE: Steven E. Ritter
In concert and on disc Mr. Matsuev has mostly specialized in finger-busting virtuoso pieces. But what was most striking about the account of Schumann’s "Kinderszenen" that opened this recital was the delicacy and introversion of his playing. Starting at a hushed volume and a relaxed pace he phrased with a dreamy freedom that had the feeling of spontaneous invention.
A diaphanous account of the "Träumerei" movement threatened to disappear altogether, and the bold silences and aching sustained notes of the concluding "Der Dichter Spricht" had an almost daredevil feel.
...Liszt’s Sonata in B minor...gave him ample opportunity to take it out on the keyboard. Tumultuous passages here were almost overwhelmingly raucous. But his poetic instincts held fast in tender moments, with trills as thrillingly precise as one might ever hope to hear.
...He superbly captured the moody fluctuations of Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 7, from anxiety and brittleness to haunted rumination, and offered a primal performance of the roiling Precipato finale.
Liadov’s "Music Box"; a Scriabin étude (Op. 8, No. 12); "In the Hall of the Mountain King" by Grieg in a flamboyant transcription by Grigory Ginzburg — each greeted with increased passion...When it ended, one fully expected to see smoke curling from his fingertips.
New York Times
(Review of the Carnegie Hall concert, 11/19/2007)
Works on This Recording
Kinderszenen, Op. 15 by Robert Schumann
Denis Matsuev (Piano)
Written: 1838; Germany
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