Denis Matsuev is one of those electrifying pianists often associated with finger-busting repertory. But his keyboard persona is rather perfectly balanced: its thunder and hair-raising brilliance coexist nicely with delicacy and nuance to yield an interpretive depth of a rare kind. In short, he is an artist who can bowl his audiences over with pyrotechnics one moment, then mesmerize them with poetic rapture the next. His repertory as a soloist is rich in the concertos of Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, and Prokofiev, and his recitals feature works by that trio as well, but also Schumann, Chopin, Scriabin, and a spate of other notables. Matsuev has appeared with the major orchestras of New York, Chicago, Pittsburgh, London, Paris, Berlin, Moscow, and St. Petersburg, and with such conductors as Gergiev, Maazel, Mehta, Masur, Temirkanov, Slatkin, and Jansons. His recordings are available on Mariinsky, RCA, and Sony.
Denis Matsuev was born in Irkutsk, Russia, on June 11, 1975. His father was a composer and pianist and his mother was a piano teacher. From age three, Denis played the piano. From 1990-1993 he studied at Moscow's Central Music School, and from 1993 at the Moscow Conservatory under Aleksei Nasedkin and Sergei Dorensky.
In 1998 Matsuev won the Tchaikovsky Competition, probably the most attention-grabbing springboard from which to launch one's international career. While many winners of this prestigious competition fade within a few years, Matsuev thrived in the limelight. His first recording for RCA, Tribute to Horowitz (2004), seemed to boldly proclaim the path of his reputation. In 2005 Matsuev founded two music festivals: the Irkutsk-based Stars at Baikal and the Crescendo Festival in Moscow. On November 19, 2007, Matsuev appeared at Carnegie Hall in a recital of works by Schumann, Liszt, and Prokofiev and simply brought down the house.
But this reaction was hardly unusual: his December 2007 appearance at London's Queen Elizabeth Hall in a Rachmaninov program and his 2008 Ravinia Festival performance of the Rachmaninov Third were merely icing on the already well-decorated cake. In 2008 Alexander Rachmaninoff, grandson of the composer, appointed Matsuev artistic director of the Sergei Rachmaninov Foundation. Through this organization Matsuev introduced two lost Rachmaninov works, the D minor Fugue and the piano version of the Suite for Orchestra. Both pieces appeared on Matsuev's 2008 RCA recording Unknown Rachmaninoff. Among Matsuev's more acclaimed recordings is his 2010 Mariinsky CD of the Rachmaninov Third Concerto and Paganini Rhapsody.