Siberian-born pianist Denis Matsuev holds much respect for composers from Mother Russia such as Prokofiev, Rachmaninov and Shostakovich.
"These composers are the geniuses of the 20th century; their music will exist for hundreds of years," he said in an interview with the London Symphony Orchestra's online platform. "No matter how many times you’ve played their concertos, it always feels like the first time. This is a distinctive feature of brilliant music, when despite the huge number of pre-existing interpretations from different orchestras and conductors, the music pushes you to find something new and create music as from a clean slate."
Prokofiev — whose Piano Concerto No. 3 Matsuev will perform with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Manfred Honeck on Oct. 28-30 — in particular demands great reserves of energy. His piano concertos are "truly challenging works for a pianist; emotionally intense and tragic," he said. "The only way to perform it is to give yourself over to it completely — I usually lose 3 kg [6.6 pounds] during a performance! Without a lot of energy, it is almost impossible to perform Prokofiev’s Second or Third piano concertos."
Each performance is different for Matsuev: "You can spend a lifetime learning these concertos, feeling how you change inside with each different interpretation, and a lot depends on who is onstage with you at that moment."
But performing in general brings "great happiness" to him. When he enters from the wings, "It is magic! Being on the stage enriches and inspires me," he said. "The energy that comes from the audience has a miraculous, healing effect. I cannot exist without a stage. I perform about 265 concerts a year, and each is a moment of great happiness."