Although I posted it, this review was contributed by Jens F. Laurson.—CTD
Evgeny Kissin, works by Chopin
detract or distract, either.
Impromptus were next—A-flat major (op. 29), F-sharp major (op. 36), G-flat major (op. 51), and C-sharp minor (op. 66)—and they were all shaped masterfully, every detail turned... and even a series of extraneous noises (at least six cell phones went off during the concert, and apart from the usual coughcophony, every five minutes someone seemed to be dropping their loose change or car keys or unwrapping candy) could not lessen the delight that it was to listen him. Not by much, at any rate.
The Fantasie Impromptu in C-sharp Minor, op. 66—interrupted by cell phones again—was astounding for the virtuosity and control with which Kissin delivered it. From the furiously fast runs of the opening to the lyrical to the rapturous to pianissimo trills that were hardly there, the playing was stunning. Two polonaises rounded off the generous all-Chopin half. The polonaises in C minor, op. 40, and A-flat major, op. 53, only further corroborated the point that Kissin is above all a marvelous Chopin interpreter, on a level which only a handful of his peers attain. His Chopin has excitement to spare, is bold, but never neglects the softer lyrical sides of Chopin which are, contrary to popular opinion perhaps, comparatively rare, anyway. As I like my Chopin played with—excuse my language—balls so big that they hang down to the floor—this distinctively Russian way with Chopin's last, grand Polonaise was simply
Nikolai Medtner is a wonderful Russian composer, almost as underrepresented now as he was a gifted composer. His sonata hybrids, like the Sonata Reminiscenza in A minor, op. 38, no. 1. that Kissin presented in the second half are well worth listening to. This particular work (punctuated by dry coughs, preferably in pianissimo sections) is a reflective musical meandering, contracting and expanding and dotted with ferocious interludes that give the Romantic virtuoso everything he needs to showcase his abilities. If those are as bountiful as Kissin's, the Sonata Reminiscenza becomes a memorable little gem. With a lesser artist in charge, I suppose it would make me question its musical merits.
Igor Stravinsky, Pétroushka Suite, Maurizio Pollini
Stravinsky's piano versions of his scores, when well performed, never make me wish for the orchestral garb and they certainly don't sound like "reductions." What Kissin delivered, in the Suite as for the entire evening—fully deserved the overused description of "brilliant"!
The audience, inexcusably noisy as it was during the concert, thanked Kissin with enthusiastic standing ovations and, more meaningfully, by staying in the hall. Relentless applause almost forced Kissin to delight with four encores: a Liszt transcription of Chopin's The Maiden's Wish, Moskowsky's Spanish Caprice (which had the audience stunned into submission), Earl Wild's transcription of the Pas de deux of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, and finally Godowsky's Viennese-melancholic The Old Piano.