National Philharmonic of Russia with Conductor Vladimir SPIVAKOV, Guest Soloist Denis MATSUEV

Roy Thomson Hall
60 Simcoe St.

“Dear Maestro Spivakov! Compliments for the great work you have done with your Orchestra. Looking forward for the next time. With my friendship and admiration.”
Placido Domingo
 “To the National Philharmonic of Russia. I love every single one of you.”
Jessye Norman
Comprised of Russia’s leading symphonic virtuosos and led by the electrifying conductor and violinist Vladimir Spivakov, the National Philharmonic of Russia is setting new standards for symphonic mastery.  The last time Spivakov played Toronto, additional seats had to be added to the sold-out venue … right on stage! Don’t miss this opportunity to see the legendary Spivakov leading the acclaimed 120-member orchestra in their Canadian debut.





Composed of Russia’s leading symphonic virtuosos and led by the electrifying conductor and violinist Vladimir Spivakov, the National Philharmonic of Russia is one of the musical symbols of new Russia. As its name suggests, the National Philharmonic of Russia (NPR) is not only a major musical institution, but also a cultural ambassador for post-reconstruction Russia. Created with generous support from Russia’s Cultural Ministry, the NPR was founded in January 2003 as commissioned by President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin. The orchestra symbolizes the deep commitment the country maintains to its rich cultural traditions, as well as the bold steps it is taking towards an innovative and dynamic future.

The Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the National Philharmonic of Russia, Vladimir Spivakov upholds the standards of Russia’s great symphonic traditions, while also turning his attention to rarely performed works, 20th-century pieces and compositions commissioned specifically for the orchestra. The great Leonard Bernstein, who presented his baton to Vladimir Spivakov, once declared that the brilliant artist belonged “to the Olympus of Music.”

The National Philharmonic of Russia resides at the new spectacular $200 million Moscow International Performing Arts Center, of which Vladimir Spivakov is the President.  One of the largest performing arts centers in Europe, this is the first “Palace of Music” built in Russia in over 100 years. Since a core mission of the orchestra is to promote and preserve Russia’s cultural heritage for future generations, the Center also hosts Mr. Vladimir Spivakov’s International Foundation, which supports talented young musicians in Russia and other countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

One of the principal objectives of the Orchestra is to support young gifted musicians, and to provide appropriate conditions for their professional and artistic growth. The Orchestra maintains close contact with the Vladimir Spivakov’s International Charity Foundation, which is to become one of the main sources of new artistic forces for the Orchestra.  During the 2004/2005 season the Orchestra formed a group of apprentices-conductors. The brightest of them will be given the opportunity to make a debut in the NPR’s concerts.

The National Philharmonic of Russia prepares new programs and performs in Moscow and abroad with Maestro Spivakov as well as James Conlon, Thomas Sanderling, Theodore Currentzis and Vladimir Simkin.  The Orchestra is planning to invite both most acclaimed Maestros (Sir Simon Rattle, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Michael Tilson-Thomas) and conductors who are world famous for their intriguing accomplishments (Antonio Pappano, Ingo Metzmacher, Christian Thielemann, John Nelson, George Cleve, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Sakari Oramo, Ion Marin, Daniel Harding).  

During the first two years of its existence, the NPR performed with Krzysztof Penderecki, James Conlon, George Cleve, Okko Kamu, Ion Marin, John Lill, Natalia Gutman, Gidon Kremer, Jessye Norman, Placido Domingo, Jose Carreras, Kiri Te Kanawa, Dmitry Hvorostovski, Sergey Leiferkus, Maria Gulegina, Juan Diego Florez, and other fascinating artists.

The NPR has performed in Europe and Japan, toured throughout Russia, recorded works by Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov, premiered H.Shore’s “Lord of the Rings” Symphony in Moscow and Tokyo, and presented A.Rybnikov’s Fifth Symphony in Moscow.

In May 2005 the Capriccio Recording Company released the CD and DVD of   Isaak Schwartz’s Concert for Orchestra, “Yellow Stars”, recorded by the NPR under Vladimir Spivakov to whom the composer dedicated the work. The National Philharmonic of Russia completed a successful US tour debut with 36 performances in the Spring of 2007 and getting ready for the upcoming North American encore tour.

                                       PIANIST DENIS MATSUEV


«For here is a virtuoso in the grandest of Russian traditions who returns us to the great days of Emil Gilels… He literally possesses the sort of technique which begins where others end»

Bryce Morrison, «Gramophone», March 2008


Perhaps he is the new Horowitz– London Times


“The very real thing–

an absolute powerhouse of a pianist”

Washington Post, November, 2006


Denis Matsuev has become a fast-rising star on the international concert stage since his triumphant victory at the 11th International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1998, and is quickly establishing himself as one of the most sought after pianists of his generation.

Mr. Matsuev has appeared in hundreds of recitals at prestigious concert halls throughout the world, including New York’s Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, Salle Gaveau and Théâtre de Champs Elysée in Paris, Mozarteum in Salzburg, Müsikhalle in Hamburg, Musikverein in Vienna, Royal Festival Hall and Queen Elizabeth Hall in London,  Suntory Hall in Tokyo, Great Hall of the Conservatoire in Moscow, Great Hall of Philharmonie in St. Petersburg, La Scala in Milan and the new Mariinsky Theatre Concert Hall in St. Petersburg. 

Mr. Matsuev has given brilliant performances around the world with orchestras such as Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Houston Symphony Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Symphonieorchester Bayerischen Rundfunks, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Filharmonica della Scala, Leipzig Gewanhaus, Orchestre National de France, Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Budapest Festival Orchestra and others.

He is also continually engaged with the great Russian orchestras of his native motherland such as Saint-Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra, Russian National Orchestra, Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra, National Philharmonic Orchestra of Russia, State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia, and Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra among others.

Denis Matsuev regularly collaborates with the most prominent conductors on the stage today including Lorin Maazel, Yuri Temirkanov, Mikhail Pletnev, Valery Gergiev, Maris Jansons Vladimir Fedoseyev, Vladimir Spivakov, Yuri Simonov.

In the 2007-2008 season, Mr. Matsuev opened the season of Houston Symphony Orchestra, debuted with Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Leonard Slatkin, performed eleven concerts in the United States with State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia, and engaged in a successful tour of Spain and Italy with the Saint-Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra under Yuri Temirkanov. In Amsterdam, critics have acclaimed his brilliant performance with Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse under the direction of Tugan Sokhiev. Mr. Matsuev also appeared in recital at prestigious concert halls throughout the world, including Carnegie Hall in New York City, Queen Elizabeth in London, Liege Concert Hall, Concert Hall of Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg, Theatre des Champs Elyse’s in Paris and his debut at the Ravinia Festival in Chicago. At the end of the season, Denis Matsuev and Valery Gergiev gave a remarkable tour in Slovenia and Germany with concerts at well-known European festivals ” Schleswig-Holstein ” and “Rheingau”.

Over the past three years, Denis Matsuev has been in collaboration with Serge Rachmaninoff Foundation and its President Alexander Rachmaninoff, the grandson of the composer. Mr. Matsuev was chosen by the Foundation to perform and record unknown pieces of Rachmaninoff on the composer’s own piano at the Rachmaninoff house “Villa Senar” in Luzern. This unique program has been in high demand across the world. After his triumphal appearance at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London “The Independent” wrote: “Matsuev spent the first half of his concert proving he had an artistic hot-line to his great predecessor… He has the rare gift of letting notes expand in a surrounding stillness” (by Michael Church, Dec. 6 2007) Mr. Matsuev made his Recital debut at the Ravinia Festival in July 2008 with this program.

Season 2008-2009 for Denis Matsuev is filled with performances in well-known concert halls across the world featuring an exciting array of unique programs. Mr. Matsuev will open the season with Filharmonica della Scalla under the direction of Maestro Myung-Whun Chung, tour with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra in Asia and Europe, and also tour North America with the National Philharmonic Orchestra of Russia in March 2009. He has also been invited to perform with the symphonies of Cincinnati and New-Jersey under the direction of Paavo and Neemi Jarvi respectively, Valery Gergiev and Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra in the “Stars of the White Nights” Festival in Saint-Petersburg, and tour Russia with Maestro Lorin Maazel and Filarmonica Toscanini. This year, he will also debut with Leipzig’s Gewanhaus, West Deutsche Rundfunk and European Chamber Orchestra. One of the highlights of this season is a concert with the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic under the direction of Maris Jansons in celebration of the legendary Yuri Temirkanov.  Mr. Matsuev will also perform in a series of concerts organized by the Serge Rachmaninoff Foundation called “Rachmaninoff Gala” at some of the most prestigious concert halls in Geneva, Bruxelles and Pittsburgh.

In 2004 BMG Classics RCA (Red Seal) released Matsuev’s debut CD “A Tribute to Horowitz”, followed in January 2006 by a disc of Tchaikovsky “Seasons” and Stravinsky “Petrouchka” and in December 2006 by Tchaikovsky piano concerto ¹1 and Shostakovich piano concerto ¹1 with legendary St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra and Yuri Temirkanov. In December of 2007, SONY BMG released a disc “Unknown Rachmaninoff” which has received strong positive reviews praising Denis’ execution and creativity. Denis Matsuev’s recital at Carnegie Hall in November 2007 was recorded by Philipp Nedel and will be released in September 2008 in a new album “Denis Matsuev – Live at Carnegie Hall.” New York Times praised his performance with “his poetic instincts held fast in tender moments, with trills as thrillingly precise as one might ever hope to hear.”


Mr. Matsuev is Artistic Director of two famous classical music festivals in Russia: “Stars on Baikal” in Irkutsk and  “Crescendo” in Moscow.  These remarkable festivals feature gifted Russian soloists from all over the world with  the best Russian orchestras and

present a new generation of students from Russia’s music schools. “Crescendo” festival had an incredible resonance in Russia and is under the patronage of the President of the Russian Federation. 



Anatoly Liadov, The Enchanted Lake, Op. 62  

Sergei Rachmaninoff, Piano Concerto No.1in F-sharp Minor,Op.1                                         



Allegro vivace


Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky, Romeo and Juliet Fantasy-Overture    


Sergei Prokofiev, Four Pieces from the Romeo and Juliet Suites, Opp. 64bis and 64ter  


Montagues and Capulets


Romeo and Juliet Before Parting

Death of Tybalt










By Aaron Grad



The Enchanted Lake [1909]


Born May 11, 1855 in St. Petersburg

Died August 28, 1914 in Polinovka (Novgorod District, Russia)

            Anatol Liadov was one of the finest acolytes to emerge from the sphere of “The Five,” a group of leading composers whose hearty nationalism defined Russian late Romantic music. Working in the shadow of Rimsky-Korsakov and his colleagues, Liadov created a small but memorable body of works. He is best remembered now for his solo piano repertoire, and especially for his orchestral tone poems, including The Enchanted Lake.

Liadov came from a musical family. His first teacher was his father, the conductor at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre. At 15, he enrolled in junior classes in piano and violin at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, but he soon traded his instrumental studies for theory and counterpoint. He enrolled in the composition classes taught by Rimsky-Korsakov, only to be expelled for poor attendance. (Liadov had a lifelong reputation for indolence; later, he declined a commission from Diaghilev for a ballet based on The Firebird, clearing the way for young Stravinsky’s breakthrough work.) Eventually Rimsky-Korsakov let Liadov resume studies and graduate, after which the younger composer joined his hero on the conservatory faculty. Liadov’s most famous pupil was Serge Prokofiev, who later offered this picture of his professor: “Shoving his hands in his pockets and rocking in his soft woolen shoes without heels, he would say, ‘I don’t understand why you are studying with me. Go to Richard Strauss. Go to Debussy.’ This was said in a tone that meant ‘Go to the devil!’”

Liadov’s unfinished opera based on Russian folklore provided the basis for his most famous composition, The Enchanted Lake. This brief musical landscape from 1909 showcases his impeccable sense of orchestral color, a quality he shared with Rimsky-Korsakov. Slow harmonic movement and minimal melodies convey an otherworldly stillness, accentuated by hovering strings and angelic flecks of harp, celesta and flutes. Liadov’s relaxed ethos, at times a liability, proves to be at the heart of his most enduring masterpiece.



Piano Concerto No. 1 in F-sharp Minor, Op. 1 [1891, revised 1917]



Born April 1, 1873 in Oneg, Russia

Died March 28, 1943 in Beverly Hills


            By the time Sergei Rachmaninoff entered adolescence, his father had squandered the family fortune, his sister had died of diphtheria, his parents were separating, and he was failing his classes in St. Petersburg. On the advice of Rachmaninoff’s cousin, pianist Aleksandr Ziloti, the 12-year-old transferred to the Moscow Conservatory to study piano with Nikolay Zverev. He lived, along with two other young students, at his teacher’s apartment, where rigorous practice sessions began at six each morning. The strict environment aided Rachmaninoff’s development as a pianist, but the cacophony of a shared practice room proved less nurturing for his burgeoning interest in composing. When Rachmaninoff asked for more privacy to compose, Zverev kicked him out and shunned him for years. Rachmaninoff moved in with relatives in Moscow, the Satins, and accompanied them to their summer estate at Ivanovka starting in 1889. This idyllic environment became his composing haven, and over the next decades almost all of his music originated from this country home.

            Rachmaninoff had written various imitative pieces as a teenager, but his first significant work (and first opus number) was the piano concerto completed in the summer of 1891 at Ivanovka. The most direct influence on the work was Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor; it provided the structural framework upon which Rachmaninoff draped his own original piano figurations. He dedicated the piece to Ziloti, who was then his piano teacher.

            Rachmaninoff appeared as the soloist for the work’s debut the following spring at the Moscow Conservatory. Then, as his piano and composing careers developed over the next years, he came to dismiss the early concerto as a student work. He had completed two more concertos by the time he decided to revise the first in 1917, holing up in his Moscow apartment to complete the task while the country devolved into chaos around him. Except for a few piano sketches, the new version of the concerto was the last music Rachmaninoff wrote before leaving Russia. The revision left the original form and spirit essentially intact, but a keener sense of orchestration and harmony brought a greater level of polish to the work. He wrote to a friend, “I have rewritten my First Concerto; it is really good now. All the youthful freshness is there, and yet it plays itself so much more easily.”

            The first movement, marked with a brisk Vivace tempo, begins with heralding brass and virtuosic piano flourishes. The music goes on to reveal a lyrical side, with lush melodies characteristic of Rachmaninoff’s mature style. The substantial cadenza, worked out for the 1917 version, creates symmetry by folding the opening brass motive into the primary material. The Andante movement features the piano in an extended solo statement of the song-like melody. This movement required little retouching, and stands out as an exceptionally beautiful conception from an 18-year-old composer. The Allegro vivace finale provides a capricious romp, moving through a tender middle section and ultimately settling into a major-key resolution.


Romeo and Juliet Fantasy-Overture [1869, revised 1880]



Born May 7, 1840 in Kamsko-Votkinsk (Vyatka province, Russia)

Died November 6, 1893 in St. Petersburg


            Russian composer and conductor Mily Balakirev may not be well remembered for his own works, but he had a profound influence on the development of Russian music. He is most closely associated with the nationalistic Russian composers known as “The Five” – himself plus Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin and Cui – but he also helped steer the young Tchaikovsky. In 1869 Balakirev conducted Tchaikovsky’s tone poem Fate (an early work that would later be discarded), and the older composer was impressed enough to take an interest in Tchaikovsky’s burgeoning career. He suggested a new orchestral project – a tone poem based on Romeo and Juliet – and even outlined a particular organization of the themes. Tchaikovsky began the work in 1869, and continued to seek feedback from Balakirev, to whom he would dedicate the work. After the premiere in March of 1870, Tchaikovsky made a few more revisions before publication. He touched up the score once more in 1880, creating the final version performed most often today.

            Some scholars say the brooding romanticism of the Romeo and Juliet Fantasy-Overture stems from Tchaikovsky’s heartbreak in 1869 by the Belgian soprano Désirée Artôt, arguably the only woman the composer ever desired. More prosaically, it could be seen as an exercise in following Balakirev’s meticulous directions. Tchaikovsky was a reluctant follower, once writing to his brother, “I never feel quite at home with him [Balakirev]. I particularly don’t like the narrowness of his musical views and the sharpness of his tone.” But without the pushy master’s guidance, Tchaikovsky never would have written the work that turned out to be his first truly mature and independent masterpiece.

            The piece features three main themes, representing Friar Laurence, the struggle between the Montagues and Capulets, and Romeo and Juliet’s love. “Friar Laurence” occupies the slow introduction with a hymn-like setting. The faster “struggle” material serves as the primary theme for the ensuing sonata-allegro form, with the emphasis made clear by crashing cymbals and orchestral sections placed in opposition. The contrasting theme of the sonata form is the “love” melody, one of Tchaikovsky’s most famous passages. After this delicious morsel, the “struggle” theme returns to dominate the development, eventually paired with elements of the “Friar Laurence” theme. The recapitulation features brilliant juxtaposition and elaboration of the competing themes, including a nostalgic final take on the “love” melody.


Four Pieces from the Romeo and Juliet Suites, Opp. 64bis and 64ter [1938]


Born April 15,1891 in Sontsovka, Ukraine.

Died March 5, 1953 in Moscow.

            For those who view the Cold War with a Western perspective, the career path of Sergei Prokofiev can be confounding. This composer found success in the United States, was the darling of Paris for some time, and then re-settled in the Soviet Union just as Stalin launched a brutal crackdown on the artistic freedom of the nation’s creative elite. Prokofiev suffered great personal woes at the hands of Stalin and his henchman, yet he found in Soviet Russia the audience most receptive to his music. The ballet Romeo and Juliet, one of the most successful compositions of the 20th century, emerged from these tangled currents of art and politics.

By the early 1930’s, the former enfant terrible adopted a new simplicity in his musical language, an aesthetic that proved to be at odds with the strident modernism favored in Paris. At the same time, new opportunities emerged from the U.S.S.R, especially film collaborations well suited to Prokofiev’s boldly direct and concise style. The composer spent more and more time in the Soviet Union, eventually settling permanently in Moscow by the end of 1935. In 1934, the man who had earned his fame through wild and punchy scores for Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes received an invitation from the lofty State Academic Theater (formerly the Imperial Mariinsky Theater, soon thereafter renamed the Kirov Theater) to compose his first full-length ballet. The theater director Sergei Radlov suggested working from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and soon he and Prokofiev had shaped a libretto. Unexpectedly, the Kirov Theater canceled the commission, an early sign of the sinister machinations that would accompany Andrei Zhdanov’s ascendancy to the role of Stalin’s chief cultural advisor. The Bolshoi Theater then signed a contract to present Romeo and Juliet, which Prokofiev had nearly completed by mid-1935 in piano score. That arrangement collapsed as well, perhaps partly due to controversy surrounding Prokofiev’s original scenario, which had Romeo arrive about a minute earlier than in the Shakespeare version, thus allowing the lovers to live and dance a joyous finale.

While the ballet faced an uncertain future in Russia, Prokofiev extracted orchestral suites for concert performance, and eventually secured an inauspicious premiere in Brno, Czechoslovakia in 1938. Finally, the Kirov Theater decided to produce the ballet, but the Leningrad premiere was not a happy occasion for the composer. The choreographer Leonid Lavrovsky bullied Prokofiev into making substantial changes to the score, and arranged for other adjustments without the composer’s knowledge. The version of Romeo and Juliet heard in January 1940 contained music Prokofiev had not written for the ballet (for example, Lavrovsky inserted Morning Dance, which was an orchestration of music from the Second Piano Sonata), used a new tragic ending Prokofiev substituted in 1938, and featured thickened orchestrations for the benefit of the dancers, who complained that they could not hear their cues, and who had threatened to boycott the production out of fears that they would appear foolish. Despite Prokofiev’s clear frustrations, the ballet won overwhelming approval from the public, received praise from the Communist party standard-bearers, and became a staple of the modern repertoire.

This program’s assemblage of four movements draws from Prokofiev’s first two Romeo and Juliet suites. Montagues and Capulets, the opening selection of the second suite, introduces the embattled clans with an impressive bloom of brass and percussion, followed by a hushed string chorale. The competing sonorities join for a bellicose march, interrupted briefly by a mysterious interlude. Masks, from the first suite, encompasses playful music from the Capulet’s costume ball in the ballet’s first act. Romeo and Juliet before Parting comes from the second suite, and it conveys all the pathos and heartache one would expect for the star-crossed lovers’ final moments together. Death of Tybalt concludes the first suite with some of the ballet’s most spry and exciting music.


© 2009 Aaron Grad.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Roy Thomson Hall, 60 Simcoe Street, Toronto, ON
Box Office: 416-872-4255, 
Tickets: $49.00 – $149.00. Special VIP Packages available.