Piano duo Kai Ratassepp – Mati Mikalai

The piano duo Kai Ratassepp and Mati Mikalai is a chamber ensemble that has found acknowledgement both in Estonia and beyond the border. The basic repertoire is formed by canonic works of piano classics but the duo has also performed new pieces with quite unusual score by Estonian composers. The duo performs works both for two pianos and two hands.

The pianists Kai Ratassepp and Mati Mikalai have been constantly playing together since 1998.

The duo has gained 2nd prize at International Piano Duo Competition in Kaunas and 2nd prize at Silvio Omizzolo Piano Duo Competition in Padua (both in 2000). The duo of Kai Ratassepp and Mati Mikalai was given the 1st prize in 49th ARD Music Competition in Munich (2000), one of the most recognized of its kind. Before the year 2000, in category of piano duos this prize was handed out almost 30 years earlier.

In addition to Estonian concert halls, Kai Ratassepp and Mati Mikalai have performed as a duo in Germany, France, Italy and Russia. In addition to concert tours, the duo has participated in international festivals. They have co-operated with orchestras such as Estonian National State Orchestra, Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, Kremerata Baltica, Deutsches Symphonie Orchester Berlin, Orchester des Nationaltheaters Mannheim, Mariinsky Young Philharmonic (youth orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg); with conductors Juha Kangas, Thomas Rösner and Ádám Fischer. So far, the most important venues the duo has performed are Herkulessaal in Munich, Kontzerthaus in Berlin, St. Petersburg Philharmony and Milan Conservatoire. Kai Ratassepp and Mati Mikalai have performed together at 56th Hitzacker Festival, Festival of ARD Prize Winners in Schloss Elmau and the Musical Olympus Festival in St. Petersburg.

The duo has recorded for radio both in Estonia (Estonian National Broadcasting) and in Germany (Bayerischen Rundfunk, Deutschland Radio Berlin).

In 2000, the duo gained the Annual Award of endowment for music of Estonian Cultural Endowment.

Repertoire of the duo varies from 18th century to 20th century and to very contemporary authors. New works by Estonian composers, for example music by Ülo Krigul and Jüri Reinvere, hold the special place among the duo’s repertoire.

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A redoubtable co-playing and superiority to technical problems of the duo Kai Ratassepp and Mati Mikalai was a discovery by itself. Leelo Kõlar: Mikalai is clearly in leading position in the ensemble. He was heard to give more interesting coloring solutions and it was flowing of stronger inner ammunition from him – despite of external simplicity and freedom.
Ines Rannap. Age Juurikas Gathered Four Prizes at Con Brio. - Sirp, December 11, 1998

Fine taste and some kind of pleasant delicate attitude came forward in piano duo Kai Ratassepp & Mati Mikalai performance because the programme included nifty stock in trades of virtuous ensemble playing: arrangement of Waltz by Ravel and Reminis-censes de Don Juan by Mozart-Liszt.
Evi Arujärv. Con Brio – Without Silk Stockings and Amplification. - Postimees, December 9, 1998

The piano duo Kai Ratassepp & Mati Mikalai – both of them is excellent pianists. It is a duo where is also much homogeneous. In our earlier duos (Anna Klas & Bruno Lukk; Nata-Ly Sakkos & Toivo Peäske) we have enjoyed the differences and the rich entirety that is formed together. Those kinds of ensembles usually always go right. But the duo Ratassepp & Mikalai is vaguely vigorous in sense that they also can be synchronous in their very sudden thinking. In other words: splendid ensemble.
Tiina Õun. A Piece af the World to Our Home – Valdur Roots about the Festival Piano 2000. - Teater. Muusika. Kino, January 2001

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