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Ludwig Van
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Daily album review 15: Denis Matsuev and Mariinsky pairing a study in intensity

By John Terauds on November 30, 2012

Denis Matsuev is at Koerner Hall for a solo recital on Sunday afternoon.

There’s undeniable appeal to the broad-shouldered, red-blooded sound of a Russian orchestra and piano soloist working together to create musical intensity.

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, Editor-Emeritus of Ludwig van Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at the University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds

And here, courtesy of the Mariinsky Theatre’s in-house record label, is 20th century Russian music at its most charismatic.

The two Piano Concertos of Dmitri Shostakovich contrast the expansive grin of a 27-year-old composer in the flush of his first fame with the jaded smile of a 51-year-old. Russian pianist Denis Matsuev is masterful at overcoming the works’ many technical demands.

The 37-year-old pianist lends the piano forward-moving power while giving his overall interpretation smoothly rounded corners.

Conductor Valery Gergiev and his Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra are magnificent in achieving the same kind of balance, giving the music weight without ever making it ponderous. The slow movements in both concertos are magical as they waft gently by.

The 1999 Piano Concerto No. 5 by living Russian composer Rodion Schhedrin is an odd and compelling mix of sweet and sour, slow-moving and rhythmic, muscular and effete that makes a nice program closer for this album. The amazing buildup of the pianist’s tiptoe toccata in the final movement is a treat.

For details of the album, including a couple of audio samples, click here.

Matsuev is in Toronto for an all-Russian solo piano recital at Koerner Hall on Sunday afternoon. There were about a dozen first-balcony tickets still available on Friday morning. Details here.

Here is Matsuev in solo mode, with an Op. 90 Impromptu of Franz Schubert, followed by some crazy-fun Grieg:

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, Editor-Emeritus of Ludwig van Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at the University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds
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