Born less than 20 years apart, Rachmaninov and Prokofiev were two of the greatest composer-pianists of the 20th Century and their instrument played a central role in many of their greatest works. In this recording, virtuoso pianist Denis Matsuev contrasts their second piano concertos, pieces that are both formidable and unmistakably Russian in their own way.
Composed between 1900 and 1901, Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor marked a resurgence in his creative powers after a disastrous premiere to his First Symphony in 1897. Its mix of virtuosity and lyricism has made it one his most celebrated works, and it is often described as the greatest piano concerto ever written.
Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2 is a tour de force among piano concertos, and even the composer himself battled anxiety when performing it. The music demands amazing technical prowess, evident in the frenetic scherzo, in which both hands play almost 1500 semiquavers in unison and without a moments pause.