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updated: 11/1/2017 1:30 PM

Maestro Valery Gergiev and pianist Denis Matsuev return to Chicago

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  • Maestro Valery Gergiev, Artistic and General Director of the St. Petersburg-based Mariinsky Orchestra, will light up Chicago with the brilliant performance of his orchestra featuring internationally acclaimed Russian pianist Denis Matsuev.Courtesy of Chicago Symphony Orchestra

    Maestro Valery Gergiev, Artistic and General Director of the St. Petersburg-based Mariinsky Orchestra, will light up Chicago with the brilliant performance of his orchestra featuring internationally acclaimed Russian pianist Denis Matsuev.Courtesy of Chicago Symphony Orchestra

 
Natalia Dagenhart

Music is the essence of life. Without it, this world would be empty and meaningless. Maestro Valery Gergiev, Artistic and General Director of the St. Petersburg-based Mariinsky Orchestra, will light up Chicago with the brilliant performance of his orchestra featuring internationally acclaimed Russian pianist Denis Matsuev. Organized under the patronage of Symphony Center Presents (SCP), this concert will take place at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, November 8 at Symphony Center in Chicago, home to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Under the baton of Maestro Gergiev, the Mariinsky Orchestra will one more time demonstrate that the universal language of music can unite people and help them to better understand each other's feelings and values. This meaningful performance is part of the orchestra's thirteen-city North American tour that includes six venues in California as well as New York, Toronto and Kansas City, Missouri. The program features such masterpieces as Shostakovich's Symphony No. 9, Richard Strauss' Ein Heldenleben, and Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 2, which demonstrates all the depth and spectrum of Matsuev's incomparable piano technique.

Considered to be one of the most powerful conductors in the world, Gergiev has served as the Artistic and General Director of the Mariinsky Theatre since 1996, overseeing not only the orchestra, but also the ballet and the opera ensembles. His talent and hard work have given him worldwide fame and recognition. Being a vivid representative of the St. Petersburg conducting school and a former student of the legendary Professor Ilya Musin, Maestro Gergiev is the recipient of numerous international awards and recognitions. However, his main achievement is the continuation of the musical tradition of the Mariinsky Orchestra, one of the oldest musical ensembles in Russia.

The Mariinsky Theater and its orchestra are well known in the United States. Since its U.S. debut in 1992, the orchestra has made eighteen tours of North America that featured the music of Shostakovich, Mahler, Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev and Berlioz. American audiences always welcome this great musical institution with gratitude and admiration and appreciate the fact that this theatre, founded in 1753, demonstrates to this country all the beauty, talent and heritage of Russian culture. It is also notable that for more than two centuries the Mariinsky Theatre has been the stage for such great artists as Osip Petrov, Fyodor Chaliapin, Ivan Yershov, Medea and Nikolai Figner, Sofia Preobrazhenskaya, Anna Pavlova, Galina Ulanova, Rudolf Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov and George Balanchine.

One of the greatest musicians of our time, Denis Matsuev, has a long history of collaborating with Maestro Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra. Born in Irkutsk, Russia to a family of talented musicians, Matsuev started playing piano at age three. His father was a composer and pianist and his mother was a piano teacher. They passed to him their love to music, which in addition to his talent, excellent education and hard work, brought him worldwide fame.

Matsuev has successfully collaborated with the Mariinsky Theatre for more than ten years and appeared on several of its recordings. There is an invisible connection between these two talented people -- Gergiev and Matsuev. "Sometimes I have the impression that Gergiev has the ability to control time and even to stop it," Matsuev said in a recent interview for Sounds & Stories, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's online multimedia source. "When he performs with a soloist, it looks like he foresees the soloist's every slight movement, and this gives a soloist the feeling of absolute understanding."

Although Matsuev has played thirty four different piano concertos with the Mariinsky Orchestra, for a long time he couldn't make up his mind about performing Sergei Prokofiev's toweringly difficult Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Minor. Gergiev played a big role in helping him to make that decision, and finally in 2015 Matsuev performed this work with the Mariinsky Orchestra in Munich as part of a complete presentation of Prokofiev's five concertos. "For me, it is Prokofiev's Everest," Matsuev said. "In dramatic effect and intensity of emotions, it takes first place among all piano concertos. The first movement is really powerful -- it's like a volcano!" The Chicago audience will be excited to hear this dramatic concerto, which was considered avant-garde when it premiered in 1913.

Needless to say, Shostakovich's Symphony No. 9 in E-flat Major, which was composed and premiered only three months after the Allied victory in Europe in 1945, will impress and delight the audience. It seems lighthearted at first glance, but as the composer himself admitted, this symphony is very difficult to perform. However, nothing is impossible for such a brilliant orchestra as the Mariinsky Orchestra, as well as performing Strauss' autobiographical tone poem "Ein Heldenleben", or "A Hero's Life". Written in 1898, this emotional symphony includes more than thirty quotations from Strauss' earlier compositions and is considered to be the autobiographical summing-up of his achievements in the genre of symphonic poems.

"If your voice is very soft and you don't make it clear that this is the way things should go, they probably won't go," said Gergiev once. This incredible conductor and music director delivers a message that is heard by everyone around the world. Being the ambassador of Russian heritage, culture and tradition, Maestro Gergiev makes this world a better place by presenting to it not only meaningful Russian classical music, but also powerful pieces by composers from other countries. He knows: it is not important where the music was born, but it is important that it is coming from a loving heart; the loving heart of a man who chose music to be his destiny.

Tickets for this beautiful event and for all Symphony Center Presents Orchestra series concerts can be purchased by phone at 800-223-7114 or 312-294-3000; online at https://cso.org/, or at the Symphony Center box office at 220 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago, Illinois 60604.

Natalia Dagenhart

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