Nikolai Demidenko is a celebrated piano virtuoso, considered a leading exponent of the Russian school of playing. His blend of technical brilliance and musical vision have earned him consistent raves since he first emerged on the international scene in the mid-1980s, and he has become a musical fixture in his adopted home of Great Britain, where he gained citizenship in 1995. Demidenko began playing before the age of five, learning on his grandfather's old, beaten-up piano. By the age of six, he was a student of Anna Kantor (Evgeny Kissin's teacher) at the Gnessin School of Music. An obstinate student who disliked scales and technique, Demidenko still made swift progress, and he eventually entered the Moscow Conservatory. There, he studied with Dmitri Bashkirov, whom Demidenko credits with fostering his more individual qualities as a player, as well as ironing out the remaining wrinkles in his technique. Reaching the finals of both the 1976 Montreal competition and the 1978 Tchaikovsky competition in Moscow (where he played through an acute case of the flu) served as a final springboard to professional recognition.
The performances on this 2-CD set were recorded during Piano Masterworks, a series of six concerts given by Nikolai Demidenko in Wigmore Hall, London, between January and June 1993. Devised by Ates Orga, under the patronage of The Lord Birkett, sponsored by Lloyds Private Banking, these recitals ranged across 250 years of keyboard music, instrumental technique and the development of modern piano resource - from Scarlatti to Gubaidulina. As a concept the series was modelled on nineteenth-century Romantic practice. In Paris, between 1873 and 1877, Charles-Valentin Alkan gave regular 'Petits Concerts de Musique Classique' -six recitals each, surveying the repear rtoire from Couperin, Bach, Handel and Scarlatti to Weber, Chopin, Schumann and Mendelssohn. Later, the Russian Anton Rubinstein created a cycle of seven Historical Recitals with which he took his farewell of Europe in the mid-1880s. At over three hours individually, these embraced a repertoire from Byrd and John Bull to Balakirev and Tchaikovsky. Like Franz Liszt, Ferruccio Busoni, too, was historically aware, his programming ranging from Bach to Liapunov.
Within a framework selectively subjective, Piano Masterworks sought to present an historical overview, offering a panorama of changing styles, aesthetic values and imaginative responses. The series was launched in Northern Ireland during 1991/92, opening at the Belfast Festival and continuing under the auspices of Queen's University, Belfast, and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.
The concept of The Romantic Piano Concerto series was born at a lunch meeting between Hyperion and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra sometime in 1990. A few months later tentative plans had been made for three recordings, and the first volume, of concertos by Moszkowski and Paderewski, was recorded in June 1991. In our wildest dreams, none of us involved then could ever have imagined that the series would still be going strong twenty years later, and with fifty volumes to its credit.