© 2024 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Classical 101

Denis Matsuev and Tchaikovsky's Second Piano Concerto

Pianist Denis Matsuev may be one of the world's best pianists to interpret the music of Tchaikovsky, but his ear for Rachmaninoff is just as impressive.

Russian pianist Denis Matsuev won the 11th International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1998.  As one of Russia's leading pianists, he can be heard in a recent recording of Tchaikovsky's First and Second piano concertos with the Mariinsky Orchestra and Valery Gergiev conducting, surely a great combination.

Matsuev's first release on the Mariinsky Orchestra's own label was a well-received performance of Sergei Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto, a big showpiece of a work we heard last week on Symphony @ 7 with pianist Stuart Goodyear as soloist.

"A valuable continuation" is how Russian musicologist Leonid Gakkel aptly describes the Second Piano Concerto from 1880 in his notes to the new recording.  That's nicely put.  It will never be as popular as the First Concerto with its soaring opening theme and dramatic entry of the soloist that initiates such a wonderfully Romantic musical experience.

Be that as it may, by any other measure, the Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Major is certainly a work also worth hearing if you love the music of this great composer.  There's a huge cadenza for the soloist in the first movement and some wonderful solos for the violin and cello in the second movement of this big concerto that even longer than No. 1 in B-Minor.

Interestingly, the Second Piano Concerto was dedicated to Nicolai Rubinstein, who badly wanted to perform it at the premier to make up for his initial harsh criticism of the First Piano Concerto five years earlier.  It was not to be, for he died in March of 1881.   The concerto was instead premiered in the United States, like the First Piano Concerto, but this time in New York instead of Boston.

Another time, we may listen to Denis Matsuev's fine performance of the First Piano Concerto, but this evening on Symphony @ 7, join me for this less-often heard Romantic concerto from Peter Tchaikovsky on Classical 101.