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7.11.04

Evgeny Kissin in Paris

Russian pianist Evgeny Kissin will be playing here in Washington this coming April (thanks to the Washington Performing Arts Society). Last weekend, on October 30, Kissin played a rather different program in Paris, with the Orchestre National de France, conducted by Kurt Masur, at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées. Alain Lompech reviewed the concert (Au Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, le piano solitaire d'Evgeny Kissin, November 2) for Le Monde:

This Saturday evening, October 30, almost a half-hour before the start of the second concert presenting all five Beethoven piano concertos, by pianist Evgeny Kissin, . . . a dense crowed was huddling in front of the doors of the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, on the Avenue Montaigne, in Paris. As the night before, many unfortunate people take their chances with their little signs marked, in large red letters, "Need tickets." [...]

The first evening, he was playing the first three concertos, which was a musical disappointment at the same time as it was a stunning pianistic performance. Tonight, Kissin began with the fourth concerto. . . . From the pianistic point of view, there's almost nothing to say: Kissin's fingers are stunningly precise, his sound luminous, if perhaps a little too metallic. The playing lacks continuity, suppleness. Each note, in the fastest passages, sounds with blinding clarity. Scales and arpeggios rise and fall without any irregularity. Trills sound effortlessly. Impeccable. [...]

But is that Beethoven's Fourth? Where did the phrases go? Where were the tender inflections, the painful replies? There are only exclamation points underlining the ends of phrases, brutal accents that tell the orchestra that it is their turn to respond. An orchestra with whom the pianist does not establish any dialogue at all, despite Masur's attempts. Kissin's playing seems designed on a plan that allows no input. Follow me! seems to be the young pianist's creed.
This being a French newspaper, the reviewer chooses to end with a quotation from Voltaire: "The voice in his throat was too strong to say the least subtle thing." There's a great picture of Masur and Kissin here.

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