In 1990 Pletnev formed the first independent orchestra in Russia’s history. The risks of this step, even with Gorbachev’s endorsement, were enormous and it was Pletnev’s reputation and commitment that made his long-held dream a reality.
Sharing his vision for a new model for the performing arts, many of the country’s finest musicians joined Pletnev in launching the Russian National Orchestra.
As a guest conductor, Pletnev appears regularly with leading orchestras such as London’s Philharmonia Orchestra, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Tokyo Philharmonic, Concertgebouw Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic and City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. In 2008 he was named first guest conductor of the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana in Lugano, Switzerland. On February 13 and 14, 2011, in a concert commemorating the aerial bombing of Dresden, he conducted the Saxon State Orchestra Dresden (Staatskapelle Dresden) in a performance of “A German Requiem.” He is currently musical director of that orchestra, with which he has made numerous recordings and given many concerts in Russia and other countries.
As a solo pianist and recitalist, Pletnev appears regularly in the world’s music capitals. His recordings and live performances have proved him to be an outstanding interpreter of an extensive repertoire. 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.”
As a Deutsche Grammophon artist, Pletnev has recorded a large number of CDs, many of which have won prestigious awards. Among these is a 2005 Grammy Award for the CD of his own arrangement, for two pianos, of Prokofiev’s Cinderella, recorded with Martha Argerich and Pletnev at the keyboards.
As a composer, Pletnev’s works include Classical Symphony, Triptych for Symphony Orchestra, Fantasy on Kazakh Themes and Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra. His unrivalled 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 was conducting and learning 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, in 2007 Pletnev was awarded a Presidential Prize for his contributions to the artistic life of the country. 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.
The Russian National Orchestra was founded by the conductor and pianist Mikhail Pletnev in 1990, following sweeping changes in the former USSR. Under his artistic leadership, the orchestra soon achieved international renown and established its hallmarks of innovation and excellence. In 2008, a panel of international critics named the Russian National Orchestra as one of the world’s top orchestras. In recognition of both its artistic quality and its pioneering structure, the Russian Federation recently awarded the Russian National Orchestra the first-ever grant to a nongovernmental orchestra.
The orchestra is a frequent guest in the music capitals of Europe, Asia, and the Americas. After the Russian National Orchestra’s 1996 début at the BBC Proms in London, the Evening Standard wrote, “They played with such captivating beauty that the audience gave an involuntary sigh of pleasure.” They have been described as “a living symbol of the best in Russian art” (Miami Herald) and “as close to perfect as one could hope for” (ClassicsToday). Recently the RNO was called “the most important cultural story of our time” (International Piano). A regular visitor to the Schleswig-Holstein, Gstaad, and Rheingau Festivals, the Russian National Orchestra is also the founding orchestra of the Napa Valley Festival del Sole, the Festival of the Arts BOCA in Florida, and the Singapore Sun Festival. In 2009, the orchestra launched its own annual festival in Moscow.
Gramophone magazine called the first Russian National Orchestra CD release in 1991, of music by Tchaikovsky, “an awe-inspiring experience; should human beings be able to play like this?” More than 70 recordings have followed since, mostly on the Deutsche Grammophon and PentaTone labels. The charity recording of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf and Beintus’s Wolf Tracks, conducted by Kent Nagano and narrated by Sophia Loren, Bill Clinton, and Mikhail Gorbachev, won a 2004 Grammy Award, the first such recognition for any Russian orchestra.