Putin rewards his pet pianist

Putin rewards his pet pianist


norman lebrecht

June 28, 2018

Denis Matsuev’s enthusiasm for a Russian World Cup – watch here – has not gone unnoticed.

Yesterday, Matsuev was awarded the Order of Honour by President Putin.


  • Caravaggio says:

    Has to be one of the crudest of pianists or musician I hope to ever hear. I mean, dreadful.

    • Alistair Hinton says:

      I certainly wouldn’t go that far, but there’s no shortage of Russian pianists of a higher order altogether – Sokolov, Trifinov, Sudbin…

      But how much does VP actually know about the piano, pianists and piano repertoire and how much of this “petting” is merely an empty and transparent PR sideshow?…

    • Herr Doktor says:

      Caravaggio, I agree. I heard him many years ago with some generic Russian orchestra performing in Worcester MA, and really didn’t like his playing at all. It was loud, bombastic, and lacking in tenderness and poetry. He has technique to burn, but it struck me that he belonged playing in the hinterlands and not on the world’s greatest stages.

      So I was rather surprised over the years to see his career rise and see him performing on those very stages I didn’t think he belonged on. Maybe he had gotten better? A couple of years ago I heard him again in Boston, and honestly, I thought my initial impressions were spot-on. But I was definitely in the minority in that Jordan Hall audience, as he received a thunderous ovation from a sizeable crowd. I guess he just doesn’t do it for me, although lots of other people seem to think he’s pretty incredible. But his music-making seems like a lot of pyrotechnics and not a lot of soul.

      • Anson says:

        Your last sentence explains the second-to-last one. Pyrotechnics get ovations.

        Every once in a while I want to listen to a big, bombastic performance, and I’ll pull a Matsuev recording. The virtuosic technique is not lacking. But there’s a reason Matsuev has never recorded, to my knowledge, Beethoven, Chopin, Debussy, Mozart, etc.

        • Mark Mortimer says:

          Shall we try to get over these comparisons. If we want to hear Mozart as it should be played we turn to Perahia- if its to be Chopin- Pollini or Zimerman. Pianists are like horses for courses. Matsuev excels in Rachmaninov (would we want to hear Perahia in this composer- probably not?) & his Tchaikovsky B flat with Gergiev/Marinsky Orchestra is just about the best I’ve ever heard- stunning.

      • Mikko says:

        A Finnish critic’s comment after a concert in Helsinki a few years ago was that “one would expect smoke to rise from the piano”. The review was mostly positive, though.

    • La Verita says:

      You’re much too kind: Matsurv plays like a pig, period.

      • Mark Mortimer says:

        What a load of crap as usual from you LaVerita. Bitter or something- can’t play as well as him? Matsuev is a formidable virtuoso & a warm character who exudes this both on & off the stage.

        • M2N2K says:

          “…a warm character…”, really? In my admittedly brief encounters with him, he made an extremely unpleasant impression.

      • carmen marinela says:

        is a jock …!? and if just a PR for Putin , you can not challenge the artist! do you reject Gergiev …?!

      • carmen marinela says:

        is a jock …?! and if is just PR for Putin , you can not challenge the artist! do you reject Gergiev …?!

  • Karen says:

    His wife is a better and more interesting artist than him, and I don’t even like his wife either…

    For me the only explanation for the career he has is his close association with Gergiev.

  • Rob says:

    Well, he is a great pianist.

    • Elizabeth Owen says:

      No style or fines he just beats the piano into submission. We won’t waste any more money going to see him.

  • Anon says:

    Would you buy a second hand piano from Dennis the Menace?

  • MacroV says:

    I’ve heard him a couple times, and agree: He has amazing technique. But I’d put him in the “uses music to play the piano” rather than “uses the piano to play music” category. In my years in Moscow (12 years ago) my favorite pianists that I heard were Alexander Gindin, the late Vladimir Krainyev, and, most of all, Elisso Versaladze (she even made me like a piece I detest – the Beethoven c minor concerto).

    Also heard a lot of amazing Russian pianists who make you wonder how they will all find enough gigs to make a career.

  • anon says:

    Matsuev is a fine pianist.

  • A Nonny Mouse says:

    Fine pianist. Ghastly musician.

  • Furzwängler says:

    To be fair on Matsuev, here is part of the review, in the July/August issue of International Piano, of his new recording of the Rach 2 and Prok 2 with the Mariinsky Orchestra, cond. Gergiev.

    After commenting that the Rach 2 offers “one of the finest performances of the first movement available” and criticizing the 2nd and 3rd movements, it goes on to say this about the Prokofiev:

    The Prokofiev is this disc’s saviour. There is a reason we don’t hear this concerto much: its technical difficulty is summarised in the huge cadenza, brilliantly dispatched. The piece needs a superpianist: this powerful but lyrical performance dwarfs that of the Rachmaninov.
    Five star Prokofiev.

    I for one can’t wait to hear it.

    [with thanks to International Piano]

    • M2N2K says:

      That is why one shouldn’t believe reviews more than partially. It is probable that his Prok 2 was better than his Rach 2, but the superlatives are undoubtedly excessive.