Matsuev and the maestro

Pianist Denis Matsuev will participate in Zubin Mehta’s 80th birthday concert.

Denis Matsuev. (photo credit: VALENTIN BARANOVSKY)
Denis Matsuev.
Russian pianist Denis Matsuev is coming back to Israel. On April 11, he will participate in a special concert at the Charles Bronfman Auditorium in Tel Aviv in honor of Zubin Mehta’s 80th birthday, performing Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2.
He will also perform a solo program in Haifa, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
“I have a busy concert schedule,” says the pianist in a phone interview from Japan. “I perform about 225 concerts a season throughout the world, appearing with the best orchestras and conductors. In addition, I serve as the artistic director of eight festivals, judge international music contests and run a foundation to support future artists. My concert activity is in the center of my life, but these additions are also very important for me. For example, the latest Tchaikovsky international music competition, which was broadcast worldwide, was one of the rare positive events in my country.”
“I’m lucky to be a musician,” continues Matsuev, “because in today’s world, which is full of terrible news about endless acts of violence and cruelty, music has taken upon itself a therapeutic role, and I feel blessed to be a musician who shares this great music with people. The soothing music emanates positive energy, and this brings peace and reconciliation to people.”
He says, “In that regard, my friend Zubin Mehta serves as a role model for me. I have performed under his baton in Israel, and the house was always full. In our turbulent times, that says a lot.”
When asked about his artistic development, Matsuev says that he feels uncomfortable discussing his own achievements, but he eagerly talks about the new pieces he is working on.
“I have made it a point to learn two new piano concerti and to prepare one solo program every year,” he says. “At present, I have 44 concerti and 18 solo programs in my repertoire. For me, the choice of a new piece is like the beginning of a new love affair. Technically speaking, you can learn whatever you want, but if you are unable to reach the profound inner meaning of the composition, you should better not even start it. For me, 2015 was the Prokofiev year because I finally reached his second piano concerto. This is an utterly tragic piece in which he foresaw the dramatic events of the Russian Revolution. Granted, the piece had been familiar to me for many years, but only recently, taking the strong advice of my friend conductor Valery Gergiev, I learned it, and now I simply delve into this gorgeous music. I feel especially happy to perform it in Israel under the baton of Zubin Mehta.”
Among his other music novelties are the Rachmaninov Marathons “when I perform all the Rachmaninov piano concerti in one day. I’ve also prepared a new program of Schumann’s music and recorded Bach and Chopin disks; music by Schnitke I’ve lately learned is fantastic. I can talk about this endlessly,” he smiles. “Soon I am going on stage to perform another concert, so my time is limited.”
In his Israeli concerts, Matsuev will perform The Seasons by Tchaikovsky, Schumann’s Kreisleriana and Rachmaninov’s Piano Sonata No. 2.
“This is one of my favorite solo programs, which I have never performed in Israel. Beautiful and seemingly simple as it is, The Seasons is one of the most difficult piano cycles, and I play it in full.
Interestingly enough, people know several parts of it, but not all music lovers are familiar with the entire piece. I love it and perform it all over the world. As for Schumann and Rachmaninov, this is music composed by two other geniuses,” he says.
“After the Israeli tour, Zubin Mehta and I will fly to Bombay, as the maestro invited me to his birthday celebration there,” he says.
“Not long ago I invited him and the Israel Philharmonic to a festival in my native city of Irkutsk. Although the city, situated on the beach of Lake Baikal, has seen quite a few prominent musicians, the concerts of the IPO were a true sensation. I even talked Mehta into going to a traditional Russian bath-house and then jumping into the cold waters of the Baikal. The maestro enjoyed it immensely, and the concert that followed was a huge success. And now I return him a visit!”
Denis Matsuev will perform on April 9 at 8:30 p.m. at the Haifa Auditorium; April 13 at 8:30 p.m. at The Jerusalem Theater; and April 14 at 8:30 p.m. at The Charles Bronfman Auditorium (Culture Palace) in Tel Aviv.