Boston Symphony Orchestra/Levine Evgeny Kissin – Brahms

Symphony No.3 in F, Op.90
Piano Concerto No.1 in D minor, Op.15

Evgeny Kissin (piano)

Boston Symphony Orchestra
James Levine

Reviewed by: Susan Stempleski

Reviewed: 12 April, 2008
Venue: Boston Symphony Hall, Boston, Massachusetts

Evgeny KissinEvgeny Kissin joined James Levine and the Boston Symphony this week for performances of both of Brahms’s piano concertos – No. 1 on April 11 and 12 and No. 2 on April 8 and 9 – each paired with Brahms’s Third Symphony. There was a sense of breathless anticipation in Symphony Hall, as the multilingual audience awaited the start of this, the final concert in the series. The evening lived up to that excitement, which reached its climax in Kissin’s performance of Brahms’s First Piano Concerto.

James Levine. Photograph: Michael LutchThe concert began with Levine and the orchestra tearing straight into a richly textured and securely paced performance of Brahms’s Third Symphony. This is the shortest and most tightly constructed of the composer’s four such works, and Levine conveyed all the power and warmth of it in a finely shaped account at generally spacious speeds. The first movement, with the exposition repeat observed, was imbued with a vigorous sense of joy. The second had plenty of sweetly expressive lyricism. The third was gently elegant. The closing pages of the finale displayed haunting twilight serenity. The virtuosity of the BSO players was never in doubt, with particularly fine contributions from clarinettist William R. Hudgins and principal horn James Sommerville, who was marvellously secure in his third movement solo. The BSO strings maintained a fine warmth and consistency throughout.

After intermission, Kissin delivered a slightly mannered but ultimately commanding performance of Brahms’s First Piano Concerto. A magisterial work of symphonic dimensions, the D minor Concerto is a stormy and broody piece. Kissin’s partnership with Levine produced impressively dramatic results. Kissin played with consummate technique and great lyrical feeling, adopting an attractively wide range of tone and dynamics, while Levine’s direction was appropriately powerful and incisive. The outer movements were impressively dramatic, with Kissin employing fair flexibility of tempo, and the orchestra demonstrating tremendous vigor and sweep. The Adagio was ideally hushed and intense, the solo piano line gently floated above the rapturous pianissimo playing by the strings.

Kissin played two encores, both by Chopin: a highly spirited interpretation of the Fantaisie-Impromptu in C sharp minor and a sparkling Waltz.

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