Mikhail Pletnev was Gold Medal and First Prize winner of the 1978 Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition when he was only twenty-one, a prize that earned him early recognition worldwide. An invitation to perform at the 1988 summit in Washington led to a friendship with Mikhail Gorbachev and the historic opportunity to make music in artistic freedom.
In 1990 Mr. Pletnev formed the first independent orchestra in Russia's history. Through his reputation and commitment his long-held dream became a reality. Sharing his vision for a new model for the performing arts, many of the country's finest musicians joined him in launching the Russian National Orchestra. Under his leadership, the RNO has taken its place among the world's finest orchestras. Mr. Pletnev continues to serve as the orchestra’s Artistic Director and Principal Conductor. He made his debut under San Francisco Symphony auspices leading the Russian National Orchestra in a 1993 Great Performers Series concert. In 2006, he launched the Mikhail Pletnev Fund for the Support of National Culture, a nonprofit that supports major cultural initiatives, including the RNO's annual Grand Festival, which opens the Moscow cultural season each September.
Mr. Pletnev’s recordings have earned numerous prizes, including a 2005 Grammy Award for his two-piano arrangement of Prokofiev’s Cinderella, with Martha Argerich and himself at the keyboards. He received Grammy nominations for recordings of Schumann’s Symphonic Etudes (2004) and Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev piano concertos with the RNO and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich (2003). His album of Scarlatti’s keyboard 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.
Mr. Pletnev's compositions include works for orchestra, piano, strings, and voices. His 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, Mr. Pletnev began conducting and learning multiple instruments as a young child and entered the Moscow Conservatory as a teenager. An advisor on Russia’s Cultural Council, he received a Presidential Prize in 2007 and the Platonov Prize in 2014. 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.