Russian music and Russian musicians were one of the main themes of the Berliner Philharmoniker in the autumn of 2010. The focus of attention in this concert was Valery Gergiev, one of the most well-known conductors from his home country. Gergiev came to fame especially due to his work with the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg which goes back to 1978. But Berliner Philharmoniker audiences have also known him since 1993.
Denis Matsuev who comes from Irkutsk, on the other hand, made his debut with the orchestra in this concert. He first made a name for himself in the music world when he won the International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1998. That he is not only passionate about classical music is demonstrated by the fact that he was the first musician ever to give a jazz concert at the Moscow conservatory. Just a few months before this guest appearance in Berlin, he made his debut with the New York Philharmonic, also with Valery Gergiev as conductor. The New York Times commented: “Denis Matsuev, the fast-rising young Russian pianist, [...] wielding his athletic virtuosity and steely power, gave a chiselled, hard-driving yet transparent performance [...]. The ovation was enormous.”
All three works in this recording represent a fascinating combination of Russian and Western music. In his Symphonic Diptych, Rodion Shchedrin condensed an opera which he had written for the New York Philharmonic and Lorin Maazel in 2002, and Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto was written for the composer’s American debut in November 1909. The final work of the concert is Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition in the orchestral version by Maurice Ravel. The elemental, even raw power of the original piano version is certainly lessened, but Ravel more than makes up for this through his use of colour and shading, which creates a multi-dimensional cosmos from the perhaps almost too unswerving persistence of the piano version.