Mussorgsky – Pictures at an Exhibition
Prokofiev – Romeo and Juliet
Kanon Matsuda, piano
Deutsche Grammophon, 2017
Among the young generation of pianists, one name that cannot be disregarded is that of Kanon Matsuda. Born in the Japanese city of Takamatsu, Matsuda moved in Moscow when she was a child and therefore completed her musical education in Russia. She already won several international prices. Her performance before the Patriarch of Moscow Alexey II at the 2007 children’s Christmas party must be remembered among her notable appearances.
Matsuda’s Russian education explains why she chose for the programme of one of her first recordings (actually the second after her debut album) two works by some of the greatest Russian composers. This album brings together the piano arrangement of Prokofiev’s 10 Pieces for piano from “Romeo and Juliet” and the original piano version of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.
Kanon Matsuda: The Performance
Kanon Matsuda is an accomplished pianist. She reveals technical virtuosity and an exceptional agility together with deep sensitivity in her performance of these two works. She can therefore colour the Pieces and the Pictures with as many nuances she likes. Her use of dynamics is absolutely intelligent and suggestive.
Prokofiev’s 10 Pieces from Romeo and Juliet
In Prokofiev’s 10 Pieces, Matsuda stresses the alternation of a wide variety of moods with the maximum flexibility and insight. From the most tender nuances of Romeo and Juliet before parting to the most conflicting feelings, as in Montagues and Capulets, her playing is notable for its varied timbral quality and for its lustrous tone. There is also the chance for some amusement, as in the Folk Dance at the beginning of the collection, where Matsuda stresses its popular character with remarkable subtlety. In any case, Matsuda constantly highlights the lyrical side of the Pieces. Not by chance, in her performance there is always something intimate and personal.
Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition
As for Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, they are exactly as an exterior display. Matsuda starts with a Promenade full of joyous expectation in the bright colours of her instrument. Immediately after this, merry introduction, the piano sounds become darker to picture the disconcerting world of the Gnomus. In these two pieces, there is already a characteristic feature of Matsuda’s Pictures. She usually combines a light Promenade to a gloomy picture or vice versa. Her performance gives therefore prominence not only to the atmospheres of the pictures, as the mysterious Old Castle or to the heavy, gloomy Catacombs or the triumphant Great Gate of Kiev, but also to the psychology of the spectator.
Two forces direct Matsuda’s performance of the Pictures. One which is centrifugal and highlights the different stages of the “visit” and to give to each movement its particular character; the other centripetal and, through the Promenades, to give unity to the work.