Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 1; Shchedrin: Piano Concerto No. 2; Stravinsky: Capriccio
The Mariinsky Orchestra recordings with Denis Matsuev, "the Siberian bear with the fastest paws in the Arctic," have all offered classic Russian virtuosity at its best. This one, containing three distinctly high-spirited works, makes a great place to start with the series, and it's hard to imagine the listener who wouldn't succumb to its charms. The program ends with a bang that plays to Matsuev's talent for jazz as well as classical music: the ebullient Piano Concerto No. 2 (1966) of Rodion Shchedrin, which, after 12-tone experiments, explodes into jazz in the finale. It ought to be played more often in the West. It fits beautifully with the Capriccio for piano and orchestra of Stravinsky, in its 1949 version, a sort of wry farewell to the composer's neoclassic period (which would continue for a few more years). The Matsuev performance of Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 1 may not be the equal of the later concertos in terms of tunes, but full of youthful energy (it was a student work), it catches the sense of burgeoning talent and is entirely idiomatic. The Mariinsky live recording is clear and immediate, and this is in every sense a delightful evening at the great St. Petersburg concert hall.