CSO: Denis Matsuev Plays Rach 3

Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Leonard Slatkin, conductor
Denis Matsuev, piano

Wednesday, August 7, 2019
4:30 PM
Donor Gates Open
5:00 PM
Public Gates Open
8:00 PM
Concert Starts

Tickets: $95 / $35
Lawn: $10

Join Ravinia and the Highland Park Art Center for a night of painting outside on our beautiful lawn. No registration neccessary. Just walk up to join. Location TBA.


Rachmaninoff:   Piano Concerto No. 3
Rimsky-Korsakov:   Scheherazade

About The Artist

Leonard Slatkin

Program Notes

  • Serge Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto is the piece of music at the center of the 1996 film Shine, which featured an Oscar-winning performance by Geoffrey Rush as the film’s subject, real-life concert pianist David Helfgott. Infamously, Helfgott suffered a mental breakdown after winning a piano competition while studying in London, having grown increasingly manic while practicing the notoriously difficult piece.
  • Serge Rachmaninoff wrote his Third Piano Concerto for his first concert tour of the United States in 1909, following the lineage of Liszt as an international star composer-performer. Rachmaninoff gave a second performance a month and a half later, conducted by Gustav Mahler, whom he praised as “the only conductor worthy to be classed [among the best]. He touched my composer’s heart straight away by devoting himself to my concerto until the accompaniment had been practiced to the point of perfection.”Like in the two concertos by Brahms, Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto gives both the orchestra and the soloist some of the composer’s best and most challenging music.


  • Serge Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto was made a concert staple by Vladimir Horowitz in the 1930s. Rachmaninoff said, “This is the way I always dreamed my concerto should be played, but I never expected to hear it that way on Earth.” A decade later, Horowitz would be a close neighbor to Rachmaninoff when the composer moved to California, and they would often play duets at Rachmaninoff’s home.
  • Leonard Slatkin’s most recent appearance at Ravinia was also Denis Matsuev’s first. That all-Rachmaninoff concert 11 years ago also featured Slatkin and Matsuev collaborating on Serge Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Slatkin also led the CSO in the composer’s inimitable Vocalise as well as his last completed composition, the Symphonic Dances (which will be heard at Ravinia on August 16 with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra).
  • Denis Matsuev is the Artistic Director of the Serge Rachmaninoff Foundation, which is based at the composer’s villa (“Senar”) at Lake Lucerne in Switzerland and seeks to preserve his life’s work and promote his lesser-known music. Ravinia President and CEO Welz Kauffman is also Vice President of the Rachmaninoff Foundation.
  • For a solid century after Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, French and Russian composers were enamored of using orchestral “colors” for dramatic instrumental storytelling. At the midway point of this fascination, their Austrian and German counterparts finally caught on: in a single year, Gustav Mahler planted his flag with his First Symphony and Richard Strauss invented the “tone poem” genre with Don Juan. That was also the year Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov created his suite Scheherazade, recalling images of the famed Arabian Nights.
  • Though nominally a symphonic suite, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade features several prominent violin solos throughout the piece, meant to represent the narrator of the same name in the Arabian Nights stories. Though sometimes performed by a guest violinist (if there is already one on the program), as the passages are more substantial than most solos in symphonic works, typically they give a chance for an orchestra’s concertmaster to show the skill they bring to that “top chair” in the ensemble. Tonight will be no exception as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Robert Chen takes that spotlight.
  • Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov was a master orchestrator, eventually writing a book on the subject (like Hector Berlioz), which included many examples from Scheherazade. Many of Modest Mussorgsky’s works became best known in versions completed or reorchestrated by Rimsky-Korsakov after the original composer’s death, including Night on Bald Mountain. (The best-known version of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, however, is Ravel’s, which will be heard at Ravinia on August 17.)

Concert Information

The momentous Rachmaninoff concerto depicted in the Oscar-winning Shine

Season Sponsor: