Denis Matsuev plays Rachmaninov's Piano Concertos No. 1 & 2

With Alexander Sladkovsky and the Svetlanov Symphony Orchestra

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Denis Matsuev — Pianist

State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia "Evgeny Svetlanov" (Svetlanov Symphony Orchestra)

Alexander Sladkovsky — Conductor

Program notes

April 1, 2018 marks the 145th anniversary of Rachmaninov's birth and the Svetlanov Symphony Orchestra, Alexander Sladkovsky, and Denis Matsuev are celebrating with two concerts featuring all of the composer's works for piano and orchestra. The first program includes Rachmaninov's First and Second Piano Concertos and his Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini!

Rachmaninov's compositions for piano and orchestra represent a pivotal chapter in the instrument's history. While contemporary critics derided his works for their old-fashioned embrace of endless melody and unbridled Romanticism—preferring more “innovative” concertos by the likes of Bartók and Prokofiev—Rachmaninov's piano concertos would go on to become some of the most beloved and most performed works of their kind.

Here, Denis Matsuev, one of the premier Russian virtuoso pianists of our time, presents three of Rachmaninov’s masterpieces for his instrument. The First Piano Concerto was composed at the age of 18 when he was still a student and the first movement was premiered at a Moscow Conservatory Concert in 1892. Written in 1900 and 1901 as he recovered from depression, the Second Piano Concerto established Rachmaninov's fame as a composer and became one of his most enduring works. The 1934 Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini was his fifth and last work for piano and orchestra, and takes the form of a cycle of 24 variations on Paganini's Caprice No. 24 for violin.

Photo: Denis Matsuev © Valentin Baranovsky

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