Denis Matsuev / Valery Gergiev / Mariinsky (Kirov) Theater Orchestra

Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No. 3; Symphony No. 5

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Since 2010, Denis Matsuev has put out an exciting run of recordings with Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra, playing the Russian concerto repertoire with extraordinary power and fire. The Piano Concerto No. 3 in C major is the most popular of Sergey Prokofiev's five piano concertos, and Matsuev gives the performance his special combination of brilliant technique and muscular energy. The solo part in the outer movements is virtuosic and highly percussive, and Matsuev's attacks are quite metallic and spiky, though this tone is contrasted with smoother phrasing and a rounder quality in the second movement's set of variations. Yet even here are displays of prestidigitation that call for a penetrating edge, and Matsuev's playing cuts through the rather heavy orchestral accompaniment every time. The concerto is paired with Prokofiev's Symphony No. 5 in B flat major, and this is an odd choice, considering that Matsuev's previous releases with Mariinsky have included two concertos each. Yet because this is one of Prokofiev's most popular symphonies, second only to the "Classical" Symphony in its audience appeal, the choice seems sound, especially if Matsuev and Gergiev were counting on this album to win new fans. The sound of this hybrid SACD is generally clear and deep, though the orchestra occasionally seems bass heavy and a little murky.

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