Pianist, conductor, and composer Mikhail Pletnev was the Gold Medal and First Prize winner of the 1978 Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition when he was 21, a prize that earned him early recognition worldwide. An invitation to perform at the 1988 superpower summit in Washington led to a friendship with Mikhail Gorbachev and the historic opportunity to make music in artistic freedom.
In 1990 Pletnev formed the first independent orchestra in Russia’s history. Many of the country’s finest musicians joined Pletnev in launching the Russian National Orchestra. Under his leadership as artistic director and principal conductor, the RNO has achieved great stature among the world’s orchestras. In 2006, he launched the Mikhail Pletnev Fund for the Support of National Culture, a nonprofit that supports major cultural initiatives, including the RNO’s annual Grand Festival that opens the Moscow cultural season each September.
Pletnev’s performances and recordings have shown him to be an outstanding interpreter of an extensive repertoire, both as pianist and conductor. The London Telegraph remarked, “from Pletnev’s fingers and brain come ideas that vitalise the music and make it teem with freshness and wit. [He] made the music positively leap for joy.” The Times describes his playing as “born of a prodigious virtuosity of imagination outrageous in its beauty.”
Pletnev’s recordings have earned numerous prizes, including a 2005 Grammy Award for his own arrangement, for two pianos, of Prokofiev’s Cinderella, with Martha Argerich and Pletnev at the keyboards. He received Grammy nominations for recordings of Schumann’s Symphonic Etudes (2004) and the Rachmaninov and Prokofiev Piano Concertos No. 3 with the RNO and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich (2003). His critically acclaimed album of Scarlatti’s Keyboard Sonatas (Virgin/EMI) received a 1996 Gramophone Award. BBC Music Magazine called the recording “piano playing at its greatest… this performance alone would be enough to secure Pletnev a place among the greatest pianists ever known.” His recording of the complete Beethoven symphonies and piano concertos (Deutsche Grammophon) was named “Best of 2007” by The New Yorker.
Pletnev’s compositions include works for orchestra, piano, strings and voices. His transcriptions for piano of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite and Sleeping Beauty were selected, along with his performance of Tchaikovsky’s Second Piano Concerto and The Seasons, for the 1998 anthology Great Pianists of the 20th Century (Philips Classics).
The son of musician parents, Pletnev learned multiple instruments as a young child and entered the Moscow Conservatory as a teenager. Today he is one of Russia’s most respected and influential artists. An advisor on Russia’s Cultural Council, Pletnev is a People’s Artist of Russia and frequently acclaimed for his contributions to Russia’s artistic life, receiving Russia’s highest civilian honor in 2007 and 2019, and the Platonov Prize in 2014. Pianist, conductor, composer and cultural leader — all are significant facets of Mikhail Pletnev’s life as an artist. Yet he considers himself, simply, a musician.