Denis Matsuev

Denis Matsuev: The Carnegie Hall Concert

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Russian pianist Denis Matsuev's previous studio recordings, thrilling as they were, pale in comparison with this outstanding RCA release of his November 17, 2007, Carnegie Hall recital. Matsuev opens with a subtly phrased and deeply poetic reading of Schumann's Kinderszenen, then launches into an epic account of Liszt's B minor Sonata, where the huge scale of his conception is matched by the depth of his interpretation and the panache of his playing. From the work's tenebrous opening octaves through its chorale's exalted chords and its central fugue's fortissimo double octaves to its coda's hushed pianissimo sonorities, Matsuev's performance is frankly astounding. One has to reach back to the recordings of Horowitz and Richter to find a performance as riveting. Matsuev's playing of Prokofiev's B flat major Sonata is every bit as astonishing. With its mysterious moods and mercurial textural shifts, his opening Allegro inquieto wholly lives up to its tempo indication, while his concluding Precipitato, with its relentless ostinato and slashing rhythms, is almost unbearably exhilarating. The highlight of this reading of the sonata, though, is its central Andante caloroso, which grounds the outer movements in its profound inwardness and unrelieved concentration. The encores include a glittering account of Liadov's The Musical Snuff Box, a rapturously romantic reading of Scriabin's D sharp minor Étude, and a transcription of Grieg's In the Hall of the Mountain King that will shake walls and shatter windows. Some purists may not be altogether charmed by Matsuev's gleeful bashing in the final bars of the Mountain King, but others will be tempted to cheer, even in the privacy of their listening room. RCA's digital sound is perhaps a bit too close and vivid, but it is generally well suited to Matsuev's performances.

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