Mikhail Pletnev

Founder and Artistic Director

Full Biography
150-Word Biography

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, D.C., led to a friendship with Mikhail Gorbachev and the historic opportunity to make music in artistic freedom. Today he is one of Russia’s most respected and influential artists.

In 1990 Pletnev formed the first independent orchestra in Russia’s history. Many of the country’s finest musicians joined him 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. Pletnev’s performances and recordings have shown him to be an outstanding interpreter of an extensive repertoire, both as pianist and conductor. His recordings have earned numerous prizes, including a 2005 Grammy Award for his own arrangement of Prokofiev’s Cinderella. He received Grammy nominations for Schumann’s Symphonic Etudes (2004) and the Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev Piano Concertos No. 3 (2003). His critically acclaimed album of Scarlatti’s Sonatas (Virgin/EMI) received a 1996 Gramophone Award, and 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 of the Nutcracker Suite and Sleeping Beauty were selected for the 1998 anthology Great Pianists of the 20th Century (Philips Classics).

What They’re Saying

"[The] American-Russian Festival Orchestra, featuring distinguished players from the Russian National Orchestra and a number of prominent American orchestras...[conveys] a vital message to our participants and observers, that by working together we can share our musical and historical cultures and increase our understanding of one another."

Athena T. Blackburn

Founding board member, Festival Napa Valley