Edinburgh International Festival: A strikingly unusual event, yesterday morning’s Queen’s Hall concert not only gave a platform to one of the world’s most intriguing pianists, but a telescopic insight into the solo piano music of just one composer, Rachmaninov.
Mikhail Pletnev, also well known as founding conductor of the Russian National Orchestra, commanded a recital that was – apart from his Japanese Kawai grand piano brought in specially from Germany – distinctively Russian through and through.
With impassive facial expression, unless the occasional slight raising of an eyebrow, he powered his way through no fewer than 12 preludes and morceax – short pieces – before the extensive Piano Sonata No 1 in D minor.
This is long-haul Rachmaninov, a slow-burner of a piece that moved from hand-wringing despair in its first movement to silken seductiveness in the unfurling second, with unexpected intimacy from Pletnev as he stared into the distance beyond the piano, barely even glancing at its keyboard.
Pletnev’s affinity with this music brings every note and nuance to bear on whatever demand Rachmaninov might make in his Preludes Op 23, the majestic romance with which he is associated not so much touching the heart, as gripping it with a fist of searing passion.