About Denis Matsuev
Denis Matsuev is one of those electrifying pianists often associated with finger-busting repertory, but his keyboard persona is rather perfectly balanced: its thunder and hair-raising brilliance coexist nicely with delicacy and nuance to yield an interpretive depth of a rare kind. In short, he is an artist who can bowl his audiences over with pyrotechnics one moment, and mesmerize them with poetic rapture the next. His repertory is rich in both solo and chamber music, covering the Romantic to contemporary eras.
Matsuev was born in Irkutsk, Russia, on June 11, 1975. His father was a composer and pianist, and his mother was a piano teacher. From age three, Denis played the piano. From 1990-1993, he studied at Moscow's Central Music School, and from 1993 at the Moscow Conservatory under Aleksei Nasedkin and Sergei Dorensky. In 1998, Matsuev won the Tchaikovsky Piano Competition, probably the most attention-grabbing springboard from which to launch one's international career. While many winners of this prestigious competition fade within a few years, Matsuev thrived in the limelight. His first recording for RCA, Tribute to Horowitz (2004), seemed to boldly proclaim the path of his reputation. In 2005, Matsuev founded two music festivals: the Irkutsk-based Stars at Baikal and the Crescendo Festival in Moscow. On November 19, 2007, Matsuev appeared at Carnegie Hall in a recital of works by Schumann, Liszt, and Prokofiev to rave reviews. This reaction was hardly unusual, as his 2007 appearance at London's Queen Elizabeth Hall in a Rachmaninov program and his 2008 Ravinia Festival performance of the Rachmaninov Third were also widely lauded. In 2008, Alexander Rachmaninoff, grandson of the composer, appointed Matsuev artistic director of the Sergei Rachmaninov Foundation. Through this organization, Matsuev introduced two lost Rachmaninov works, the D minor Fugue and the piano version of the Suite for Orchestra. Both of these pieces appeared on Matsuev's 2008 RCA recording Unknown Rachmaninoff. Matsuev has served as the artistic director for several festivals, including the Annecy Music Festival and Astana Piano Passion Festival and Competition. In 2016, he helped found a new piano competition in Moscow, the Grand Piano Competition.
As a soloist, his repertory takes in the concertos of Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev, along with Rachmaninov, and his recitals feature works by that trio as well as Schumann, Chopin, Scriabin, and a spate of other notables. Matsuev has appeared with the major orchestras around the world, including those in New York, Chicago, London, Paris, Berlin, and Moscow, and with such conductors as Gergiev, Maazel, Masur, and Jansons. Matsuev's recordings have appeared on the Mariinsky, RCA, and Deutsche Grammophon labels, among others. His more acclaimed recordings include a 2010 Mariinsky recording of the Rachmaninov Third Concerto and Paganini Rhapsody. In 2020, Matsuev was heard on a Deutsche Grammophon album of piano concertos by Shostakovich, Schnittke, and Lutoslawski. ~ Robert Cummings