Though Russian pianist Denis Matsuev performs throughout the world, he feels at home everywhere.
“Wherever I perform, I love the audience, stage, hall, city and country,” he said in a recent interview with the online magazine Interlude. “No matter whether it is at Carnegie Hall, the Musikverein in Vienna, a tiny hall in some French village or in any Russian region, I feel great everywhere and every concert is pure happiness for me.”
A frequent visitor to Symphony Center, where he has performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and guest ensembles such as the Mariinsky Orchestra, Matsuev returns Aug. 7 to the Ravinia Festival to perform Rachmaninov’s mighty Piano Concerto No. 3 with the CSO, under Leonard Slatkin. This fall, he will join conductor Kent Nagano and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra in Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini in an SCP Orchestras Series concert Oct. 15 at Symphony Center.
His journey to the world’s great stages began during childhood while growing in a musical household. “‘There was a lot of music in our home,” said Matsuev, a native of Irkutsk in Siberia. “My parents are musicians. My father wrote music, and my mother gave music lessons. For as long as I can remember, our home was really welcoming. My great-grandfather played the violin, and my grandpas and grandmas played the guitar and the accordion. I can play 10 different instruments myself — not as well as the piano, but I do play them.”
Matsuev always knew that he wanted to be a pianist. “I loved performing,” he said. “When I performed for my friends, for family guests, it was the best part of the day — when I came to the stage for a concert. And now it is the same. The day is empty if I do not have a performance.”
Away from his work, Matsuev finds the best place to relax is around Lake Baikal in southern Siberia, where he “finds energy in the incomparable nature of my native land. I go home at least twice a year, including at Christmas. On these occasions, I also take long sessions in the sauna — a real Siberian sauna. Then I dive in Lake Baikal, whose temperature is usually no more than 8 degrees. It’s the best way to relax.”
A version of this post appeared previously on Sounds and Stories.