The New York Times



Concert: NY Philharmonic

Mark Zeltser is certainly exceptional, even in an era that has spawned so many gifted virtuosos. He comes equipped with a remark-able technique, and is what so few of his generation of pianists are, an extraordinary colorist. He has at his command a tremendous range of tone, created by an uncannily skillful use of touch, dynamics and pedaling.

Mr. Zeltser handled the piano part of the incredibly difficult Prokofiev’s Second Concerto in the steely toned, powerhouse Horowitz tradition, tossing off the octave runs with a thunderous roar, ironclad precision and immense vitality. This Russian titan of the keyboard could hardly have stirred up more strength in the music. The audience responded with a prolonged standing ovation. We welcome the pianist who is involved with his music and presents it with blazing fervor.


The Berlin Philharmonic / Zeltser

This Russian performed the famous Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto with titanic elegance. The pianist, full of temperament, showed commendable delight in Tchaikovsky’s pianistic tour de force. Tchakovsky's First is and will always remain the concerto for a 'lion'' of the piano. There is no doubt that Mark Zeltser is such a lion! His forceful interpretation showed a power that surpassed even the fortissimo eruptions of orchestra. Skillful technique, depth of touch, and a sensitive feeling for lyrical passages all were manifested in his performance. And his solo intervals displayed a rubato resembling a long Chopinesque nocturne. His playing can only be described as phenomenal and brimming with temperament. Zeltser's extraordinary talent brought forth thundering applause and long-lasting ovations for the pianist, the conductor, and the musicians of the Berlin Philharmonic.

Zeltser is impressive.

Grieg gets retouched


So you think there is no potential for enjoyment or musical stimulation in the prospect of yet another performance of the Grieg Piano Concerto, do you? Well, you are wrong. Pianist Mark Zeltser, the soloist with the Cleveland Orchestra proved that Thursday night in an unfailingly interesting performance of this threadbare old war-horse concerto. There was an extraordinary sense of poetry in Zeltser’s playing. Much of the time he held his obvious virtuoso instincts in check and played instead with wonderful delicacy. His approach to the “molto tranquillo” episode in the first movement, where the piano decorates the theme with arpeggio figures, was one of incredible refinement. Then, a few measures later where the piano has great volleys of fortissimo octaves, Zeltser was the Thunderer, drawing a greater volume of sheer sound from the Orchestra’s Hamburg Steinway than any pianist within memory. And so it went for the rest of the piece. Hurricanes of piano sound here, the merest whisper there, yet always evidence of a sensitive musician at grips with the music. A totally engrossing performance of this too-familiar score. Mark Zeltser has the mark of a real keyboard star about him.  

Music Review: Pianist Mark Zeltser dazzles in Bowl Concert 


Zeltser has the technique of a Lazar Berman and the power of a Horowitz without the banging of one or the brittleness of the other. Here is the consummate musician. His performance of the G-minor Concerto was simply riveting. No pianist in memory has succeeded in forging a passionate whole of the disjunctive brutalities unleashed here by Prokofiev. Nor has any pianist taken the composer so completely into his being. Zeltser’s prodigious technique does not exist as an end in itself. The scene is a mere platform.   

His huge sonorities have fervor where others achieve only clangor. Beyond all this the pianist exudes an absolute authority. His rhythmic point and expressive vigor are sovereign matters. He doesn’t work at these, they work in the name of musicianship. Foster provided careful accompaniment but a soloist like Zeltser outlines the design so emphatically that he appears to send out all the necessary impulses. The audience responded with the standing ovation and repeated curtain calls reserved for superstars.  


With this talent, - who needs luck?

A product of the famous Moscow Conservatory, Zeltser is surely a pianist in the Gilels mould, equipped with fingers of steel, a prodigious technique and many individual, even idiosyncratic, ideas. He is a superb musician, and last night’s programme of Haydn, Prokofiev, Chopin and Ravel seemed purpose-built to demonstrate his enormous talent. His Haydn had classical charm, his Chopin romantic warmth, his Ravel a dark tinge of evil. And when he played the Eighth Sonata of his compatriot Prokofiev, he produced music that was alive with a verve and vivacity, purely and brilliantly Russian.  

Spectacular Piano Artistry
New York Philharmonic  

The music which followed was spectacular and Mark Zeltser had the passion, virtuosity and extravagance to bring this to full realization. The work was Prokofiev’s 35-minute “Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 16.” He performed with great arm flourishes. His entire technique came from the shoulder right down into his finger. Result? - warm vibrant tone. More than this, his ardor and intensity identified with the music’s content as if they had been born together.
Zeltser delved into every corner of the long, spun-out melodies and projected their great, round arcs. He made the music exciting whether it was tempestuous, lyrical, or typically Prokofiev- pungent. He was altogether brilliant in what he said and how he did it. Many in the audience rose to their feet as they gave him a prolonged ovation.




Mark Zeltser

It will be surprising if pianist Mark Zeltser's name isn't a household word soon. His concert on Saturday at the Kennedy Center was a delight. He is a consummate artist. His playing combines the best aspects of introspective intensity and technical prowess, and he has the rare ability to endow even the simplest phrase with meaning. The opening Haydn C. Major Sonata was crisp and facile but not without just a touch of poignance. Franck's Prelude, Chorale and Fugue were marvelously sonorous, but moved freely and with contrapuntal clarity. In two preludes and an etude by Debussy Zeltser came as close as anyone I heard to producing a percussionless piano sound, the ideal touch for this music. And the final work, Prokofiev's rather somber Sonata No. 8, a big demanding piece, was both lyrical and propulsive. Every phrase of this concert was worth contemplating, an unusual achievement for anyone.


Salzburg Festival: Piano Recital - Mark Zeltser

Mark Zeltser is the most exciting pianist to appear at the Salzburg Festival in the last ten years. Zeltser's technique is beyond compare. Not so much in degree, but in its special character: the fingers, moving with apparent ease over the keyboard, display a steel-like power and a stunning ability to strike. They act independently of one another and accomplish amazing feats when called upon to differentiate rhythms and configurations. At first the somewhat cool, some-what brittle, sound is arresting, as it emphasizes the structures and compositional intricacies of the pieces. Some cunning pedal work lends the right support, providing a notably subtle touch whose weight seems to be accurately measured in legato playing. Zeltser lets the sound of the piano swell to a mighty. but never brutal, fortissimo. while leaving room also for delicate arabesques. Whenever he holds back on the final part of a modulation. the succession of chords in slow tempo. suggested by nuances, produces an effect that has not only been skillfully contrived, but is performed to express positive feeling. In Ravel's "Giaspard dc la Nuit" this artist demonstrated his genius in totally surmounting the challenge of contrary technical pianistic problems, possessing diverse tone colors. To Prokofiev's expressionistic "Sarcasms" (1915) Zeltser lends volume to express the violent eruptions of musical anarchy (so termed by contemporaries) with energy and vigor. And the B-minor sonata by Liszt demonstrated that intensity can be achieved from a distance through the efforts of a great interpreter.


Vigor and Virtuosity

The passage “Grand Echiquier” as performed by this Russian artist was astounding for the vigor and skill of its execution. The audience was entranced, and a reviewer wrote the next morning: “This is not a Pianist -- it is a Lion” -- a capricious observation perhaps, but not too exaggerated, as any of his listening audience might confirm. Zeltser's hands are as powerful as those of a steelworker, while his fingers have the brilliant agility of butterflies. The superb technique that he manifested leaves no doubt of his having attained absolute mastery of his piano: he knows how to hold his position at the keyboard motionlessly as he produces the most intricate subtleties. And yet what vigor he projects! He appears to throw himself on the keyboard in a fortissimo passage until the essence of its soul is extracted. It might also be noted how well he knows the trick of keeping his arms very high while his foot crushes the pedal. But, close to the “athlete" performing the most fantastic feat, we behold a different being: an artist sensitive to the charm of a melody and to the sweetness of an ethereal sonority He has every right to be spellbound by the magic of his own playing. Throughout the recital from “Wanderer Fantasie" by Schubert to the “Mephisto- Valse" by Liszt, the Nocturnes and Fantasie en F-Mineur" by Chopin, and the stunning "Sarcasms" by Prokofiev -- Zeltser revealed himself as a musician of contrasts, with a gift for passing from the sublime to crashing outbursts. Combining these fabulous gifts, which are part of his being, with the prodigious technique which he invented for himself, Mark Zeltser gives proof to the world of being equal to the greatest pianists of our time.


Zeltser Stuns Audience

This was a truly sensational performance of Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3. This is a repertoire piece that various pianists play. But Zeltser brought to it a compelling kind of authority, involvement and the ability to make his audience gasp. From his high level of achievement, this pale-faced Russian pianist is a major pianist. Above all, he showed great feeling and care with all gradations of tone in a work is usually attacked percussively. Joining him at the helm was Andre Previn, who relished the Prokofiev along with Zeltser and meshed the Philadelphians’ tempos adroitly. This quick collaboration - both men only had short notice - is one of the books and it can’t be applauded enough.    

Zeltser, Levine and the Chicago Symphony  
From Russia to U.S. Zeltser Makes His Mark

Mark Zeltser possesses 10 of the most independent fingers to be found anywhere in the piano world as well as the musicianship necessary to keep his passions under control. Zeltser succeeded in keeping the glittery grotesquerie and lyricism in proper balance. Hands raised high above keyboard, he pounced on the driving rhythms with knowing vitality and abandon. This was enormously colorful and exciting playing founded on a juicy piano tone that comfortably rode the crests of Levine’s enthusiastic accompaniment.

We will have Zeltser back, make no mistake about that.



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