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.
Russia is vast, and so is this 25-disc tribute to the great piano school of Russia-from the long-famous icons to the more recent inheritors of this ineffably proud tradition. Vladimir Horowitz, Sviatoslav Richter, Emil Gilels, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Lazar Berman and many others display their subtly various approaches to phrasing and timbre as they perform the great works of the Russian canon and composers across Europe.
The Second Concerto can seem an oddly diffuse work in lesser hands and it is to Sol Gabetta's credit that she offers a distinctive, introspective approach, daringly spacious at times, deliberately eschewing superficial excitement.