Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No 3, Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini

Denis Matsuev, Mariinsky Orchestra

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Rachmaninov wrote his Third Piano Concerto, op.30, in 1909. By this date, the 36-year-old composer had written the most important two thirds of what would be his entire output: three operas and two symphonies, outstanding in their artistry and creativity. The Third Piano Concerto was conceived at this ‘golden mean’ in his creative life. This is not just a mathematical notion. The score is the most perfect reflection of Rachmaninov as artist and man. It is the embodiment of his contribution to the history of the new music. Rachmaninov was of course a genius, both as composer and pianist, but it was the piano concerto that was to be the synthesis and symbol of his musical gift, and the Third Piano Concerto indisputably represents the peak of his genius.

Chronologically the Third Piano Concerto belongs to the period described in Russia as the Silver Age. However, as a counterbalance to the centrifugal tendencies of this artistic period, the main creative thrust in Rachmaninov’s work is centripetal and the center is in fact the Russian person, with all the spiritual and emotional attributes and intrinsic elements of that symbolic person. In the Third Piano Concerto, national traits are enveloped in a European virtuoso style, but this style is interpreted in a more Russian way which is particularly effective. When we combine this with the deep personal nature of his musical expression, we can see that this work reflects not simply the power of the Russian style but also the lyricism of personal emotion.

Denis Matsuev – Piano
Mariinsky Orchestra
Valery Gergiev, Conductor


Piano Concerto No 3- i- Allegro ma non tanto
Piano Concerto No 3- ii- Intermezzo - Adagio
Piano Concerto No 3- iii- Finale - Alla breve
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini

Total time: 01:03:12

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Release Date March 27, 2015

Press reviews


Denis Matsuev is an amazing pianist. He shapes the Third Concerto’s fistfuls of notes with consummate mastery. The work’s opening theme has an easy elegance that’s very beguiling, and Matsuev shapes the more massive of the two cadenza alternatives with great power. In the finale, the opening theme never sounds merely scrambled, and the massive chordal second subject builds in huge crescendos, but Matsuev never bangs or loses control. With the Paganini Rhapsody, each variation has shape and character, and the closing few really do offer a clinic in virtuoso keyboard artistry. The variation in triplets right before the famous 18th is particularly noteworthy: very ominous, louder, and darker than usual.

Sunday Times

As one might expect from someone hailed as Horowitz’s successor, Matsuev holds that most titanic of piano concertos in a passionate embrace, lavish with his rubato, devastatingly certain in his articulation, sensitive to colour and balance, aware of how to pace and thus make coherent the architecture of this massive work. Importantly, for all his physical power and energy, he never makes a hard sound. There’s commensurately sympathetic playing from the Mariinsky, who also match Matsuev’s deft, vibrant musicianship in the brittler Rhapsody.

BBC Music Magazine

Here, for once, is the level of artistry that the work needs. Denis Matsuev’s phenomenal deftness is such that he can launch into the finale at an eyebrow-raising speed which he then has no trouble sustaining. And for all his seemingly endless reserves of technical power, he never makes an ugly sound … The Paganini Rhapsody is another memorable experience, with Matsuev and Gergiev darting unerringly between the music’s extremes of fantastical virtuosity and tight-reined lyricism.

Classics Today France 10 out of 5

What a pianist! Denis Matsuev is a phenomenon. Here he proves that he can associated his virtuosity with a real sense of style and aesthetic.


1 review for Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No 3, Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini

    Enjoyable performance and well recorded with a rich, deep soundstage.

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