was born in Archangelsk, which is located in the north of Russia on the coast of the White Sea. By the time Pletnev began piano studies at age seven, with pianist Julia Shaskina, his family had moved to the central Russian City of Kazan in Tatarstan. Pletnev demonstrated promise and was enrolled at age 13 in Evgeny Timakin's piano preparatory class at the Moscow Central Music School. At 14, Pletnev earned the Grand Prix awarded by the International Jeunesses Musicales in Paris, and at 15 he transferred into master classes headed by Yakov Flier at the Moscow Conservatory. It was under Flier that Pletnev's talent really took wing, and after taking the gold medal at the All-Union Competition in 1977, Pletnev won the coveted gold at the Tchaikovsky Competition in 1978. "Having rehearsed for the Tchaikovsky Competition under (Flier's) guiding hand," Pletnev once remembered, "I effectively performed there in his name."
Having paid his dues in the tough Russian competition circuit, Pletnev was now free to tour, and appeared on the concert circuit to worldwide acclaim. Critics from London, to New York, and to Tokyo alike praised Pletnev's interpretations of Scarlatti, Liszt, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Chopin, and other primarily mainstream piano composers. Some critics likened Pletnev's approach to that of Michelangeli or Horowitz. In particular, Pletnev is recognized by his affinity for Tchaikovsky, and the pianist has prepared his own transcriptions of Tchaikovsky's ballet The Nutcracker, as well as recasting his opera Eugene Onegin as a ballet.
As the Berlin Wall came down, Pletnev was in the process of founding and organizing the Russian National Orchestra in Moscow. Since that time Pletnev has appeared less often in public as a pianist; he took up the mantle of conductor of the RNO and held the post until 1999. The orchestra under Pletnev made several critically acclaimed recordings for Deutsche Grammophon, including an award-winning set of Tchaikovsky's six symphonies released in 1996. Pletnev also took the orchestra on a tour to the United States during the 1992-1993 season. In addition to his world-class skills with the baton and at the keyboard, Pletnev is also a better-than-average amateur violinist, and finds the time to compose orchestral pieces and chamber music.
The Russian National Orchestra (Russkiy Natsional'niy Orkestr)
is one of the newest international-quality orchestras in the world and is a symbol of societal and government changes in Russia. (It should not be confused with the Russian National Philharmonic Orchestra, Russia's oldest orchestra, based in Tomsk, Siberia.)
President Mikhail Gorbachev's policies of Openness (glasnost') and Rebuilding (perestroika) permitted the founding in 1990 of the first independent orchestral organization since 1918, the Russian National Orchestra. Its founder was the Tchaikovsky Prize-winning pianist and conductor Mikhail Pletnev. Promising an agenda that was driven by artistic considerations and an actual ownership share in the orchestra, the RNO succeeded in attracting the best players from the state-owned orchestras, especially those who were tired of concerts and compositions designed to promote Communist Party agendas. The first concert, in November, 1990, (nine months before the total collapse of Communist rule and reversion of the country to its old name of Russia), revealed an orchestra that was already first rate in execution and individual tone and well on the way of blending into a first rate ensemble.
The orchestra is funded entirely from private sources (foundations, corporations, and individuals from around the world), and is governed by a multinational board of trustees. It has important outreach programs, including its innovative arts and music program for children, "The Magic of Music." It often travels to give special concerts and presentations at orphanages and homes for handicapped children.
Its first recording, of Tchaikovsky's Pathetique Symphony in an exciting performance led by Pletnev, quickly generated international demand. It was the first Russian orchestra invited to play in Israel and at the Vatican, and it toured widely.
Since 1993, the orchestra has recorded extensively for Deutsche Grammophon and has produced outstanding recordings of music of Rachmaninov and Prokofiev in particular. It also has a recording arrangement with an American independent label, Well-Tempered Production, which, in addition to recording the whole orchestra, planned to produce a series of discs of music played by the various chamber ensembles the orchestra has formed out of its membership.
In 1999, it appointed violinist-conductor Vladimir Spivakov as its principal conductor and music director.