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MIKHAIL PLETNEV is an artist who defies simple classification, although his early career matched the musical establishment's expectations for a virtuoso pianist of the Russian School. While pursuing a highprofile career as a concert pianist, he made his debut as a conductor in the Soviet Union in 1980 and went on to make guest appearances with many of the leading orchestras there. Born in Archangel, Russia, in 1957, the child of musicians, he grew up in Kazan. At the age of 13 he transferred to the Central School of Music and, in 1974, entered the Moscow Conservatory, studying under Jacob Flier and Lev Vlasenko.
Pletnev was the Gold Medal and First Prize winner at the 1978 Tchalkovsky International Piano Competition in Moscow when he was only 21. His prize resulted in early international recognition and, in 1988, an invitation from President Mikhail Gorbachev to perform at the superpower summit in Washington.
The ensuing friendship with President Gorbachev gave Pletnev the historic opportunity in 1990 to realize his long-held dream of forming an orchestra independent of the government. Attracted by Pletnev's reputation and his vision of a new model for the performing arts in Russia, many of the finest musicians in the country offered their services and the Russian National Orchestra was bom. Since its inception until September 1999, Mr. Pletnev served as the RNO's music director and principal conductor, establishing the orchestra at the very front rank of world ensembles. At the start of the current season he became the orchestra's Conductor Laureate and will continue his association with the RNO as both conductor and piano soloist.
While Pletnev's conducting career is primarily focused on the RNO, he also makes appearances as guest conductor with such prestigious orchestras as the Philharmonia, the London Symphony Orchestra, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Oslo Philharmonic, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Firmly established as one of the great pianists of our time, Mikhail Pletnev continues to perform regularly as soloist and recitalist in the music capitals and major festivals of Europe, Asia and his native Russia. He has appeared with Bernard Haitink, Riccardo Chailly, Kurt Sanderling, Neeme Järvi, Herbert Blomstedt, Lorin Maazel and the Bayerische Rundfunk Symphony Orchestra, Christian Thielemann and the Israel Philharmonic, Daniele Gatti and the Santa Cecilia Orchestra (Rome), Libor Pesek and the Czech Philharmonic, Carlo Maria Giulini and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, and Claudio Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic at the New Year's Eve Concert 1997 in Berlin. His frequent appearances as soloist with the Philharmonia Orchestra include performances under Leonard Slatkin and Vladimir Ashkenazy in 1999 and Tchaikovsky's complete works for piano and orchestra in 2000. Future projects include Beethoven's Five Piano Concertos as soloist with Dohnányi and the Philharmonia in 2001 and the Deutsches Sinfonieorchester Berlin under Nagano in 2002.
Pletnev's recordings have received numerous prizes, including a 1996 Gramophone Award for his discs of Piano Sonatas of Scarlatti (EMI/Virgin Classics). His unrivaled interpretations of his own piano transcriptions of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite and Sleeping Beauty have been selected alongside his recordings of the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2 and The Seasons for release on Philips’ Great Pianists of the 20th Century series. In 1997 he became an exclusive Deutsche Grammophon recording artist with the release of a highly praised Chopin recital. This has been followed by an “Hommage à Rachmaninoff” (featuring works of Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Chopin, and Rachmaninoff performed one of the great pianist/composer's own Steinway pianos in Lucerne); a Liszt album (the B Minor Sonata and the Dante Sonata); and a disc of keyboard sonatas by C.P.E. Bach. His most recent release is an album of works by Grieg, including the first recording of the composer’s recently discovered Seven Fugues.
Mikhail Pletnev's creativity extends to composing. His works include Triptych for Symphony Orchestra, Fantasy on Kazahk Themes for Violin and Orchestra, Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra and, most recently, a Concerto for Viola and Orchestra, premiered by Yuri Bashmet with the Russian National Orchestra in December 1998.
His stature in Russia has been recognized by President Yeltsin, who in 1995 awarded Pletnev the first State Prize of the Russian Federation, an honor that was again bestowed on him in 1996.