Best ever conducting from the keyboard?

Best ever conducting from the keyboard?

Daily Comfort Zone

norman lebrecht

February 04, 2022

This week’s retrieval from Soviet TV archives shows a young Mikhail Pletnev stylishly directing the Russian National Symphony Orchestra in Mozart’s 23rd Piano Concerto, K488.

Every movement of Pletnev’s is entirely musical and his interpretation is superb.


  • NYMike says:

    Fine musician!

  • Anthony Sayer says:

    Mikhaïl Pletnëv is an incredible musician. If you’ve never heard his Pictures at an Exhibition I suggest you get hold of it immediately. The range of colours he draws from the piano is unbelievable. Pretty much everything I’ve heard him play is exceptional.

    • Allardyce Mallon says:

      To be honest, I didn’t like his version of The Seasons by Tchaikovsky. It was too mannered. I prefer Richter for that piece, but I have a recording by another Russian I have temporarily forgotten (The Seasons are coupled with the Rimsky-Korsakov piano concerto) and that is my favourite.

  • Bonetti Micaela says:


  • KBS says:

    Seeking musical inspiration from a man who in the past has been arrested for sexual offences with a minor is a dangerous path to walk. If his inspiration comes from such a dark place, do you want to be moved by it at all? I for one, have never listened to his albums after learning about the man.

    • Bonetti Micaela says:

      Monsieur, Madame KBS,

      Are we in a tribunal or on a classical music blog?

      • Springbeg says:

        Would you feel this way we’re it your own child or Grandchild?

        • Micaela Bonetti says:

          Celle-ci je m’attendais à la recevoir…

          Madame, Monsieur Springbeg,
          Are we, after the tribunal, in a psychiatric studio, OR on Mr Lebrecht’s music blog?

          Merci pour Votre attention.

          • Springbeg says:

            I might remind Madame/Monsieur that this same music blog has witnessed heated exchanges in regards to the alleged behaviour of countless artists….Domingo, Levine, Dutoit etc etc

          • Micaela Bonetti says:

            Madame, Monsieur Springbeg,

            My name is Bonetti, Micaela Bonetti.

            Of course, I did notice other hateful and heated exchanges of comments on Mr Lebrecht’s blog,
            that I deprecated .
            I myself never wrote anything about these subjects.

            Maybe your and KBS’s comment made me want to react.

            Maybe I shouldn’t have…

          • Springbeg says:

            On the contrary, we are all simply expressing (I hope) sincerely held opinions.

        • Paul Carlile says:

          Springbag: It’s irrelevant, as the case was dropped after evidence of blackmail came to light.

          • Springbeg says:

            There appear to have been conflicting accounts as to why the charges were dropped including, not least of all, an intervention from the very top of the Russian Government.

      • M2N2K says:

        In any case, “arrested” is not the same as “convicted”. As far as I know (from reliable sources), he is not a very nice person. But he is definitely an outstanding pianist.

    • Springbeg says:

      I’m in sympathy with your view. Pletnev’s musicianship is not in question but his abuse of vulnerable young children is. He is not alone, Robert King comes to mind. I note that BBC radio 3 continues to promote the work of both artists…….whilst consigning the likes of Gary Glitter to the ‘Dark Side’…….the foul stench of snobbery no doubt.

    • HugoPreuß says:

      For what it’s worth, the charges were dropped and he walked free without a trial. I have no idea whether that means that he was innocent – but presumably neither have you.

    • Ludwig's Van says:

      He was tried & exonorated of those charges. Get a life!

      • whatever says:

        Musn’t have anything to do with the fact that Putin got nervous when his one of his star exports was outed as a kiddy fiddler?

    • Nick2 says:

      KBS needs to get his facts straight before he makes serious allegations. MP was never charged with any offense and never convicted of any offense. He was set up and when the matter came before a judge it was thrown out.

      Even had he been charged, I suppose KBS believes that means all who are charged have to be guilty. Pathetic!

    • Paul Carlile says:

      KBS, a really stupid stance. If you heard his finest performances on record or radio and enjoyed them, knowing nothing of his person, or his history, why would that musical quality change when later you learned about a doubtful case based on blackmail of the artist? He was exonerated after the evidence came to light. Your false allegation is also unworthy and dangerous.

    • Gabrielle says:

      To all discussing this topic: the arrest did not resut in charges, and therefore there was no conviction, because it was proven that it was a case of blackmail. It was dropped. People cannot be deemed guilty in a public forum just based on a greedy allegation without merits. Such an act is call slandering.

  • Owdro says:

    Many years ago, Pletnev conducted a superb Schubert 9 with the Philharmonia at the Châtelet, as a last minute replacement of Leinsdorf. I have also heard an excellent concert version of Onegin in Moscow… and he okayed the second best concert version of op. 111 after Michelangeli. He should go to Chicago after Muti.

  • E says:

    This is just outstanding. Thank you, a thousand times, for posting it, with your appreciation of it.

  • The historic isolation of Russia, which even tries to deny that Russia is part of the Western World, has been an enormous loss for culture. The country is divided into two parts, European Russia, and Asian Russia. 75% of Russia’s population lives in European Russia. European Russia’s population of 110 million makes is Europe’s largest population. It also comprises 15% of the land area of Europe and is Europe’s largest country. Moscow is Europe’s largest city and has 10 or 11 full time orchestras and more opera performances per year than any European city, including Berlin, London, Paris, and Vienna. The quality of Russian musicians is phenomenal.

    Once again this economically motivated isolation is putting the world at the risk of war. It also strengthens leaders like Putin. I hope the day will come when these artificial divisions are erased.

    • Andrey says:

      Your history and musical opinions are very fine. Your geopolitical stance is not on par with it. Sorry. Russia needs to be isolated for its own good.

  • Allardyce Mallon says:

    This is indeed wonderful. The only comment I have is that I felt the orchestra had a tendency to rush slightly during the first movement, when Pletnev was busy at the keyboard and they were playing without being conducted. Otherwise, they maintained the energy and the performance remained electrifying without becoming routine at any point.

  • msc says:

    A lovely treat for a Saturday morning — thanks.

  • Save the MET says:

    Spectacular! That’s exactly how a Mozart piano concerto should be performed a la Wolfgang himself!

  • Piano Lover says:

    Nice playing indeed!

  • Wolfgang Amadeus Museart says:

    Totally agree. To me he is the one and only!

  • Rik says:


  • Del Boy says:

    Lovely, but austere

  • Mark says:

    Highly authentic, energetic yet nuanced!

  • Cherie says:

    Strongly disagree regarding Mozart. Every detail lost in the opening Tutti!! We aren’t in a race…….where was the rhetoric and the sheer delight?? Straight- jacket performance!

  • David K. Nelson says:

    It is good this has been preserved. But “best ever” — not “best I ever experienced” but “best ever” — well now, compared to what else, and based on what criteria? The visuals, or the audible results?

    What of the recordings that were not filmed? What of works more intricate and complex than Mozart’s piano concertos? We can hear, and marvel at, but not see, what Dimitri Mitropoulos did to play and conduct the Prokofiev Third Piano Concerto for Columbia records. Lukas Foss would play and conduct Bernstein’s Age of Anxiety Symphony; Bernstein himself played and conducted the Rhapsody in Blue, Ravel, Shostakovich, Beethoven, and at least two Mozart Concertos. I do not wish to minimize what it takes to conduct Mozart at this level, but I do suggest that even a very good orchestra needs more in the way of actual conducting in order to deal with Prokofiev, Ravel, Bernstein, and yeah, Gershwin.

    • Larry W says:

      It was a question, not a statement. It invited a response, which you gave, sans answer.

    • Paul Carlile says:

      Agreed about Mitropoulos, Bernstein, Foss…..all fantastic, but after all, chez Mozart: no hiding place! “Simplicity” reveals all!

  • Patrick says:

    Twenty years ago he directed the LSO at the Barbican in a Mozart concerto. It was electrifying.

  • Jay says:

    Stalin loved K488 played by Maria Yudina

  • Paul Carlile says:

    Most enjoyable, even if for my taste, I & III are quite speedy! But i prefer that, with marvellous articulation and élan, than some more “polite” rendings. This would have been shortly after he formed his orchestra and the vitality and freshness is evident. I find Pletnev often preferable in Classical style than in Romantic, (including Russian rep!). He’s a hi-risk artits (IMO); you may get fantastic splendours right next to disappionting mannerisms, but his best is marvellous and i’d always go a long way to hear him.