Carnegie Hall replaces Putin pianist

Carnegie Hall replaces Putin pianist


norman lebrecht

February 25, 2022

Denis Matsuev has been fired. His replacement is a Chopin winner:

Carnegie Hall and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra today jointly announced that pianist Seong-Jin Cho will step in for Denis Matsuev, performing Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra at Carnegie Hall tonight, Friday, February 25 at 8:00 p.m. This evening’s all-Rachmaninoff program is the first of three performances with Maestro Nézet-Séguin and the orchestra taking place at Carnegie Hall this weekend with concerts also scheduled for Saturday, February 26 at 8:00 p.m., and Sunday, February 27 at 2:00 p.m. As announced yesterday, Yannick Nézet-Séguin replaces Valery Gergiev for these concerts.

Carnegie Hall and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra are deeply grateful to Seong-Jin Cho who agreed to fly from Berlin on very short notice for tonight’s performance. 


  • Ya what says:

    Lucky audience…they got a pianist who’s better than what they originally paid for.

  • Brian says:

    If it is true that he was fired, it is truly a chilling event for the arts. Are you from a country or ethnicity that we suddenly don’t like? Fired! Do you hold an opinion or are part of a political party that we suddenly don’t approve of? Fired! Maybe you approve of it today, but it will come for you tomorrow with the tides shift, as they inevitably do.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      These ‘cancellations’ can only be effective if they’re part of a much wider deeply-felt set of real economic sanctions. I fear the West will only pay lip service to sanctions. Self-interest will always prevail. Putin knows this and will have already taken measures to mitigate sanctions.

  • music lover says:

    Yay!!!!!Great choice!!!!

  • Larry says:

    Flew from Berlin? They couldn’t find a pianist living in America? There’s probably 25 living within walking distance of Carnegie Hall!

  • Anonymous Bosch says:

    The Dirigent of the Naples concerts is now listed as the universally appreciated “N. N.” on the Philharmoniker’s website. (18:40 CET).

  • Achim Mentzel says:

    Couldn‘t they find a much more exciting pianist in the US instead of flying this boring one in from Berlin? I mean, it’s Rachmaninov 2 and not Schönberg.

  • Astoria Wagner says:

    Great replacement!! Seong-Jin Cho is one of todays finest pianists and will definitely shine tonight

  • Anson says:

    What must that flight from Berlin be like? Reading the score, tapping on the tray table!?

    Break a leg to Cho and Nezet-Seguin. The handful of “last minute substitution” performances I’ve attended have sometimes had their hiccups, but they’ve all had a certain electricity that’s hard to replicate.

  • Roccanova says:

    It seems to me rather hypocritical to ban those or other Russian artists whereas Russian oil continues to flow into the U.S. In 2021 Russia accounted for 21% of all U.S. gasoline imports. Will that go on or not? Either you do something to really help Ukraine and the Ukrainians, or not. Symbolic gestures alone are just lame and ridiculous. Germany has stopped the Nord Stream 2 project, thereby potentially risking their gas supply in the coming winter. Are the U.S. prepared to do anything of a similar impact? Or will they limit themselves to blacklisting a few artists as long as they get the Russian oil they want?

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      And that endlessly vacuous individual John Kerry said it was a pity that Russia had taken the focus off climate change!! The Left seldom gets it!!

    • TP says:

      It’s not “the U.S.” that is what you call blacklisting a few artists. It was Carnegie Hall. Not the U.S. people, not the U.S. government, but Carnegie Hall administration.

      “Germany” stopped the Nord Stream project. Was it the government or a German orchestra?

      How is Carnegie Hall being hypocritical?

  • MacroV says:

    They really needed to fly someone in for Berlin for this? Terrific pianist and I assume a friend of the VPO, but how many world-class pianists capable of playing Rocky 2 live within subway distance of Carnegie Hall?

    • J says:

      It’s possible that a few had declined the last minute request until Cho accepted. If I were one of the pianists in New York, I’d have declined it for the short rehearsal time and for the fact that it wasn’t really a happy occasion.

  • Frank says:

    a much better pianist

  • MusicBear says:

    No American pianists who know Rachmaninoff 2 were available? This “only people from far away are any good” has got to stop someday.

  • he says:

    Seong-Jin Cho flies in from Berlin?

    Trifonov lives in Brooklyn!

    AND he recorded the Rach 2 with YNS on DG.

    Damn, they must really want to avoid all Russians.

  • Kenny says:

    This reeks of bogus. They brought someone from Europe on 24 hours’ notice with all the great pianists who live here? They can’t all be away.

    I understand that he/she/it probably should play again in Florida on Tuesday. But c’mon.

  • Bravo, Seong-Jin Cho!

    He was actually the first pianist that I thought of as a replacement, and so deserving a talent. I admire his playing greatly.

  • Matthias says:

    New message from the VPO:

    “The Vienna Philharmonic stand united against every form of aggression and war. The harmony of living in peace is an immeasurable blessing and is fundamental to our society and culture. In particular, our Ukrainian and Russian members express their deep connectedness with one another and with all who are affected by this war. It is with our concerts, where we, together with our Ukrainian and Russian musicians, make music on the same stage, that we want to show a symbol of hope.”

  • Fernandel says:

    In other words: you order Caen-style tripes and get a vegan salad.

  • Felix says:

    Good. Artists who are Putin apologists and beneficiaries should be denied access to all platforms and stages until they disavow support for him and his regime’s inhuman ways.

  • Jim C. says:

    WQXR just announced that they are NOT going to broadcast this concert live because of the change.

    Why not?

    Are there legal entanglements with the replacements or something? I was actually going to dial in tonight.

    • Nydo says:

      The full battery of microphones was up for the concert. Someone was recording it. Did WQXR end up broadcasting it after all?

    • Hal Sacks says:

      Both Yannick and Seong-Jin Cho are Deutsche Gramaphon artists. Yannick recorded with him and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. Perhaps DG wanted to record this concert for future release.

  • Scott Colebank says:

    The first half of this program is short, time-wise. Blown opportunity for the VPO to have performed one of Rachmaninoff’s lesser-known works for orchestra, such as The Rock or the Caprice Bohemian, as an opener.

    • Nydo says:

      The concerto is routinely somewhere between 30 and 40 minutes long, and the symphony clocks in around an hour. This was not a short program, time-wise. The beginning was also delayed, as the lines outside took a long time to process everyone’s vaccination proof. The concert let out at about 10:45, maybe even a few minutes later than that.

  • Albert Schmidt says:

    Virtue signaling and nothit else. Or wait, breaking news: upon hearing this Putin apparently ordered a withdrawal! Hahaha as the kids say these days: ‘stay in your lane’. Russian musicians have nothing to do with this. Neither do most Russians in America. I say this fully knowing that in the ‘greatest democracy in the world’, where Asians are getting killed and anti-asian attacks have risen 500% in San Francisco, Russians will surely start getting attacked and vilified, just like Matsuev, simply because they are Russian. What has Matsuev actually done or what could he possibly do to stop Putin or more importantly, how is this in any way going to help the 14,000 killed in Donbas since 2014?
    Oh well, at least this kid is a fine pianist.

  • John Borstlap says:

    These are the right moves.

    Anybody who openly supports a regime of barbarians, should be excluded from civilisation, because they don’t belong there.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      This is quite true but only insofar as this accompanies real and significant sanctions, sending a message from the (ahem) civilized world that it’s just not on!!

  • Thomas M. says:

    The right thing to do. Artists who associate themselves with that evil dictator should no longer be allowed to play in the West for as long as Putin’s aggression continues!

  • msc says:

    Matsuev can be great in the right repertoire, but I’d rather hear Cho in Rachmaninov’s second.

  • wiener says:


  • soavemusica says:

    “During the First World War, the Boston Symphony’s refusal to include the national anthem in one of its concerts triggered a xenophobic panic that led to the arrest of the conductor Karl Muck.”

    • Nydo says:

      That was a sad incident in our history. Certainly some of the proponents of cancel culture, in tandem with the xenophobia of some on the right, seem to want to match that.

  • wiener says:

    Er hat sich distanziert !

  • Matt D says:

    Good. All Russian citizens should be banned from visiting the Western World until they find the guts to remove the thugs. Those here already should be repatriated immediately, with few exceptions.

    • Fiery angel says:

      Apparently some people don’t know anything about anything.
      Mass deportations – which is the correct term for what you call “repatriation” – on the ground of nationality/ethnicity are a crime against humanity.

      Witch hunt!

  • Cyril Ignatius Kendrick says:

    And no reason is provided? Is the concert hall no longer a place of civic space above the passions of politics?

  • Richard says:

    Interesting parallel with Karajan and his membership of the Nazi party. He received some blow back and ironically was banned from conducting in Vienna in 1946 by the Soviet occupation authorities. He later maintained his membership of the Nazi party was strictly for career reasons and went on to become one of the most prolific conductors of the 20th century. Perhaps it was implicit that he subsequently denounced the Nazi’s. Perhaps also because he has now passed I had compartmentalised that aspect of the man.

    I am struggling to do that with Gergiev and Matsuev given the rawness of the current events and it also has made me question whether I have been too myopic with Karajan.

    But for Gergiev and Matsuev I can still enjoy their music (the recordings I have) and acknowledge their greatness as artists while fully supporting them now being sanctioned for their odious views and associations. Once Putin is no more they may have their chance to distance themselves from the regime – and those sanctions may be reassessed.