The Sydney Morning Herald, Thursday 11 June 2015 by Martin Duffy
Nikolai Demidenko, Melbourne Recital Centre
“Russian pianist Nikolai Demidenko was superb in a much anticipated recital that gave a contemporary account of Chopin interpretation filled with spontaneity, personality and moments of rare brilliance…
Demidenko's eloquent opening bracket interspersed the waltz and mazurka with clear exposition of the essential wit and charm of these beguiling dance forms. He breathes life into Chopin's degrees of freedom, unexpected little tricks and mercurial changes of mood...” read full review
EL PAÍS, Sunday 29 March 2015 by Julián Carrillo
Nikolai Demidenko with the Galicia Symphony Orchestra and Michail Jurowski, España, Galicia
“...Nikolai Demidenko performed a version of Prokofiev's Concerto Nr.2 that should be considered as reference, from the beginning the sound of the notes from the piano came out like bright pearls on top of the bright velvet ropes of the strings of the orchestra. Then came all the high difficulty and powerful sound full of control, in the peculiar development that Prokofiev wrote for the first movement.
It is a huge cadenza not only for its duration: the brilliant arpeggios, the crossing of hands and other elements of brilliance that Prokofiev wrote on his own honor and glory were resolved with impeccable technique and profound musicality by Demidenko. Then, the playful irony of the Scherzo, the mock solemnity of the intermezzo and its virtuosic elements - those electrifying glissandi of the right hand with his left hand arpeggios- and the dense and growing intensity of the final Allegro tempestuoso, rounded a version of reference that will remain in the memory of the audience of A Coruña for a long time...” read full review (in Spanish)
Sylviane Falcinelli, Saturday 16 June 2012
Nikolai Demidenko, a seigneur in Paris
“The Parc de Bagatelle's Chopin Festival opened on 16 June 2012 with one of those concerts that remain engraved in one’s memory: a seigneur of the piano came by to play in the all-too-small Orangerie. Even from his youth, Nikolai Demidenko (born on 1 July 1955) has occupied a place all his own in the prestigious Russian school. Every musical implication, guided by mature thought, has led him to blend into his playing the fruits of new experiences stemming either from the broadening of his repertoire or from confronting instrumental aspects of piano design. Whether turning to unfamiliar 18th‐century musical scores or contemporary music, there is not even a reputedly minor piece that does not reveal an unexpected spark of genius under his touch...” read full review
Michael Church - “The Independent”, Tuesday 24 January 2012
Nikolai Demidenko, Wigmore Hall
“...The Russian pianist Nikolai Demidenko invited us to a Schubertiad of his own. This consisted of works culled from the composer’s last year, when, knowing how cruelly his days were numbered, he was beset by headaches and fits of giddiness: this Schubertiad was necessarily a grave affair ... his tone had a singing warmth, and his pace was gentle: the long sustained lines and the shifts between minor and major were brought out with ballade-like grace. The runs and scales of the second piece were so pearlised and swift that they went like the wind; the third – the rippling one everybody knows, even if they don’t know it’s by Schubert – and the arpeggiated fourth came and went in an exquisite blur. These are not virtuoso pieces, but they benefited enormously from Demidenko’s discreet virtuosity...” read full review
Nikolai Demidenko review: Moments of brilliance from Russian pianist
“Russian pianist Nikolai Demidenko was superb in a much anticipated recital that gave a contemporary account of Chopin interpretation filled with spontaneity, personality and moments of rare brilliance. In contrast to the more nuanced instrument of Chopin's time, the modern piano offers more projection and wider range of tonal colours. Demidenko's very personal pedalling exploits both, giving clarity of voice as required yet he also exploits the multiplication of its sustaining effects.
Demidenko's eloquent opening bracket interspersed the waltz and mazurka with clear exposition of the essential wit and charm of these beguiling dance forms. He breathes life into Chopin's degrees of freedom, unexpected little tricks and mercurial changes of mood.
The Piano Sonata No 2 in B flat minor, Op 35 was an abrupt change of intensity. Demidenko appeared eager to progress swiftly between movements, preserving the developing tension. While there were many pyrotechnics in this program, it was often the simple dialogue between left and right hands, such as the contrasting D flat major section of the funeral march, that most impressed.
Chopin often composed in groups of four – the Impromptus, Ballades, Scherzi – yet he composed only one Berceuse, which provided momentary relief between the intensity of its framing works. Chopin's elevation of the Scherzo was validated by this authoritative account of these four diverse narratives that alternate heft and gossamer levity. The perfection of studio recording is always alluring, however the risk taking that successfully suffused this live performance will hopefully always find its place.”
“La Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia, dirigida por Mijaíl Jurowski (Moscú, 1945), celebró el viernes en el Palacio de la Ópera de A Coruña su decimoséptimo concierto de abono. En sus atriles, Lumières abyssales – Chroma 1, de Héctor Parra (Barcelona, 1976), el Concierto nº2 en sol menor, op. 16 de Serguéi Prokófiev –en el que acompañó a Nikolái Demidenko (Aniskino, USSR, 1955)-, y la Sinfonía nº7 en si menor, “Inacabada”, de Franz Schubert.
En Chroma I, Héctor Parra explora con éxito una buena parte de las posibilidades sonoras –tanto dinámicas como tímbricas- de la orquesta. La obra aparece compuesta por pasajes de diferente luminosidad orquestal, que se suceden en una especie de minucioso muestrario de cómo se puede hacer sonar una formación sinfónica. En una primera audición no se logra escuchar claramente un hilo conductor que facilite su seguimiento por el público o que, incluso, justifique su escucha más allá de una sugerente experiencia sonora. La veterana sabiduría de Jurowski y el buen hacer de la Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia extrajeron todo el contenido sonoro y posibilidades musicales de la obra.
Nikolái Demidenko hizo una versión de referencia del Concierto nº 2 de Prokófiev, ya desde el sonido de su inicio en el que las notas del piano sonaron como brillantes perlas sobre el brillo aterciopelado de las cuerdas de la Sinfónica. Luego llegó toda la brillante dificultad y el poderío sonoro lleno de control, en el peculiar desarrollo que Prokófiev escribió para el primer movimiento.
Es este una cadenza enorme no solo por su larguísima extensión: sus brillantes arpegios, cruces de manos y demás elementos de lucimiento que Prokófiev escribió para su propio honor y gloria fueron resueltos con técnica impecable y profunda musicalidad por Davidenko. Luego, la ironía juguetona del Scherzo, la burlesca solemnidad del Intermezzo y sus elementos virtuosísticos –esos electrizantes glissandi de la mano derecha junto a los arpegios de la izquierda-y la densa y creciente intensidad del Allegro tempestuoso final redondearon una versión de referencia que quedará por tiempo en la memoria de la afición coruñesa.
Los aficionados de todo el mundo han pasado casi dos siglos atentos al baile de números en las dos últimas sinfonías de Schubert, hasta que la revisión de 1978 del catálogo oficial –el de Otto Deutsch (1883-1967)- determinó su numeración por el orden cronológico. Siendo conocida desde entonces la Sinfonía en si menor, “Inacabada” , D 759, como Séptima y la Sinfonía en do mayor, “La grande”, D 944, como Octava, los musicólogos sa preguntan la causa de que Schubert solo escribiera los dos movimientos que conocemos, a lo que dan con variadas respuestas.
La sensación de plenitud que se sintió después de escuchar la interpretación del viernes de Jurowski con la Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia, permite pensar que la pregunta no debe ser por qué solo escribió esos movimientos, sino ¿para qué iba a escribir más? La oscura y calmada emoción de la introducción del Allegro moderato, con las intervenciones del viento metal como imagen sonora de las intromisiones del sufrimiento en su vida, fueron como ventanas sobre el día a día de Schubert. El generoso aliento de las trompas de José Sogorb y Amy Schymmelman dando paso al cambio de tema abrió esas ventanas con vistas a sus frecuentes cambios de estado de ánimo.
Y en el Andante con moto –final pese a quien pese-, apareció otra vez la serenidad schubertian como la lasitud del despertar tras de una noche mágica. Fue entonces cuando se destacó frente a esas duras escalas descendentes de once notas, las que parecen el destino desgranando sus oscuros augurios en el oído del joven vienés. Emociones y sugerencias que manaron de la batuta llena de serena autoridad y sabia sensibilidad de Mijaíl Jurowski. El director moscovita fue capaz de transmitir toda la emoción contenida en la partitura, resumirla en la regulación de sonido de los cuatro últimos acordes de La Inacabada y lograr el largo y espeso silencio de los espectadores antes de estallar en aplausos. Ese silencio tan necesario para disolver en una profunda inspiración de aire todo el cúmulo de emociones que volaron entre el escenario y el auditorio y tan infrecuente por estos lares. Un concierto para recordar.”
“The Parc de Bagatelle's Chopin Festival opened on 16 June 2012 with one of those concerts that remain engraved in one’s memory: a seigneur of the piano came by to play in the all-too-small Orangerie. Even from his youth, Nikolai Demidenko (born on 1 July 1955) has occupied a place all his own in the prestigious Russian school. Every musical implication, guided by mature thought, has led him to blend into his playing the fruits of new experiences stemming either from the broadening of his repertoire or from confronting instrumental aspects of piano design. Whether turning to unfamiliar 18th‐century musical scores or contemporary music, there is not even a reputedly minor piece that does not reveal an unexpected spark of genius under his touch.
As this Chopin Festival had chosen to feature unfairly neglected Russian composers in the lineage of the brilliant Pole, Nikolai Demidenko gave depth and lyricism to Anton Rubinstein’s Barcarolle in A minor, Op. 93 no. 4 and to Felix Blumenfeld’s Nocturne- Fantasie in E major, Op. 20, pieces that many of us were hearing for the very first time and which can no longer be considered secondary after the impressive breath that swelled the sails of their admirably executed musical journey.
One can but imagine to what heights Nikolai Demidenko’s intimacy with the pillars of the repertoire might carry us! While many Russian pianists brutalise Chopin, he constantly scrutinises him, literally incorporating the most miniscule subtleties of Chopin’s masterpieces. Given the challenge that Chopin imposes, under the guise of a Berceuse, of deploying an infinite quilt of ornamentation over an unchanging bass note, this pianist guided us, through revelations of phrasing, towards the observation of concealed innermost channels. In the Sonata in B flat minor, he resolved the difficult tempi relationships through absolute control of its architecture and of the internal, organic nexus of factors in its dramatic projection. Indeed, therein lies the secret: faced with four movements assembled by the imagination of a creator little given to large forms, it is necessary to find the means for harmonising the seeming heterogeneity by the powerful suggestion of the dramatic message. This plunge into an expressive abyss allowed Nikolai Demidenko to take us in a single bound through tragic episodes to supreme grandeur without ever lapsing into outdated pathos.
With its solemn tempo, the funeral march thrust every step to the depths of the piano and of the heart, avoiding any artifice that would have altered the unwavering sincerity. Then, the insoluble Presto seemed to awaken from darkness without fully dispelling the shadows, its waves roll over us whilst holding back unexpected effects of contrasting excess so as not to break any of the diffused emotion.
A second half, devoted entirely to Schubert’s Impromptu, Op. 90 no. 1 and his Sonata, D. 958, both in C minor, soared high over all the problems linked to pianistic interpretations of the time: a plague on any Viennese approach or historicising debates on the closeness to the pianoforte of the period! Demidenko’s Schubert projects itself in prophetic accents, foreshadowing with virile authority the soaring development of the Romantic piano that will ‘orchestrate’ the keyboard.
As an encore, the intense, secretive mood of a similarly minded Chopin matched the nocturnal hour while the firm design pursued by Schubert was re-emerging.
Listening to the playing of this extraordinary pianist led us to wonder what has always prompted us to consider Demidenko ‘different’. Today, what remains of whatever made Moscow’s byways a road paved for giants? Those formidable, well-oiled robots with effective, and sometimes brutal, technique, handling the music with cold panache. Where are the great lions of the calibre of Sofronitzky, Gilels et al.? As such, the very ‘western’ success of Boris Berezovsky, for example, results from a grave error of perspective: we heard him again at Salle Pleyel on 13 June 2012, with the Orchestre de Paris, playing Prokofiev’s formidable Piano Concerto No. 2. Oh, admittedly, there was not a note out of place, and the percussive machine was running at full speed, but rarely have we heard this work, so dear to our heart, so devoid of emotional content! Then, as an encore, and wanting to demonstrate by a judicious pairing that the conservative Medtner was capable of following the pathways of modernity, Berezovsky brought back to mind, by contrast, how this same Fairy Tale created far more disturbing and prophetic waves under Nikolai Demidenko’s fingers as an encore on 3 May 2012 after a stunning Rachmaninov Second Piano Concerto (with the Orchestre National de France, under a conductor unfortunately unable to create a symbiosis with the pianist).
So much might be said about the clarity that Demidenko brings to Rachmaninov without giving up any of its sonorous sweep! Beginning with the brilliant idea of employing a single pedal for the famous first eight bars of the Second Piano Concerto, without the resulting sonorous halo that enriches the harmony blurring its progression in the least (one might as well say that everything depends on the very controlled level of clarity of touch thwarting neither the depth nor the clarity of tone)!
Demidenko's art is instantly recognisable in his way of imparting flesh to every note. His use of the so-called 'forte pedal'—adjective as improper as it is incapable of describing the pedal’s technical function and mechanics!—comes from an incredible finely controlled lifting of the dampers, so as to ‘glaze’ the sound with just the right amount of halo needed for its colouring, as by encompassing entire phrases in very long pedalling whilst, at the same time, clarifying their contours with the balance of his touch—the famous saying of Ricardo Viñes, ‘Play clearly in a flood of pedals’.
With Demidenko, the power and immense propagation of sound unique to the Russian school take on a subtle enhancement of sonority, a clarity in the design of the musical trajectories, emotionally-borne mysteries in the bass notes, which make each concert— or CD, if faithfully recorded—an initiatory experience, both in the magical as well as the technical sense of the term. To this is added a sense of phrasing that reveals a meticulous analysis of the direction of each voice so as to accentuate this or that hidden intention. In the end, one comes out of one of his performances with the feeling of having learnt what one had previously failed to see in the works...
All too rarely heard in France, Nikolai Demidenko will have honoured the Paris region with three visits this year, the last on 18 November 2012 at the Théâtre des Champs- Élysées in Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto with Yuri Temirkanov and the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic.”
Sylviane Falcinelli English translation by Michael J McCann (www.infomarex.com) and John Tyler Tuttle
Michael Church - “The Independent”, Tuesday 24 January 2012
Nikolai Demidenko, Wigmore Hall
“Schubertiads were what Franz Schubert’s friends called the soirees at which he played his works on the piano, and by all accounts they were joyous occasions.
The Russian pianist Nikolai Demidenko invited us to a Schubertiad of his own. This consisted of works culled from the composer’s last year, when, knowing how cruelly his days were numbered, he was beset by headaches and fits of giddiness: this Schubertiad was necessarily a grave affair.
Demidenko’s showed in the first bars of the first Impromptu of the D899 group how big a canvas he proposed to work on: the bare opening chord was like a melancholy call to attention, with the answering phrase like a faint cry in the distance. His tone had a singing warmth, and his pace was gentle: the long sustained lines and the shifts between minor and major were brought out with ballade-like grace. The runs and scales of the second piece were so pearlised and swift that they went like the wind; the third – the rippling one everybody knows, even if they don’t know it’s by Schubert – and the arpeggiated fourth came and went in an exquisite blur. These are not virtuoso pieces, but they benefited enormously from Demidenko’s discreet virtuosity.
Next came the Three Piano Pieces D946 which pianists usually pass over as being too eccentric. Demidenko showed how closely they are related to Beethoven’s Bagatelles – which Schubert would have known – in their concentrated firecracker intensity, but also how completely they belonged to the somnambulistic world of Schubert’s imagination. Then it was time for the C minor sonata D958, with its heroic Beethovenian echoes. Demidenko took the first two movements at tempi so slow that they might in other hands have caused the audience to nod off, but this performance was riveting: the truncated phrases and sudden silences spoke of memories, regrets, and the grave. Then came rebirth, with the galloping exuberance of the Tarantella climaxing in a blaze of brilliance. Only when Demidenko was presented with his bouquet – typical he should have chosen that, rather than the standard bottle of bubbly – did his lugubrious features briefly crack into a smile. First encore: an unfamiliar piece by Medtner, piling mountains of notes into a dark edifice. Second encore: Chopin’s D sharp minor Nocturne, beautiful beyond words.”