Evgeny Kissin at Carnegie Hall – Beethoven, Chopin, Brahms & Prokofiev

Piano Sonata No.27 in E-minor, Op.90

Nocturne in F-sharp minor, Op.48/2
Fantasy in F minor, Op.49

Four Ballades, Op.10

Piano Sonata No.2 in D-minor, Op.14

Evgeny Kissin (piano)

Reviewed by: Susan Stempleski

Reviewed: 24 May, 2024
Venue: Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall, New York City

Focused and confident from the start, Evgeny Kissin took a quick, perfunctory bow, and launched into an intriguing interpretation of Beethoven’s E-minor Sonata. After sounding the opening chords of the capricious and elusive first movement with strong conviction and dynamic control, he maintained the rigor of the music, producing a louder, more resonant sound, filled with feeling and expression. The lyrical rendering of the evocative second and final movement was masterful in its intensity and command of structure, full of elegance and restraint.

Kissin’s fine performance of Chopin’s bittersweet Nocturne in F-sharp minor began with a  gentle and dreamlike ethereality, building up tension before leading into a stylishly ornamented repeat of the opening music and then fading away in a gracefully executed series of trills and arpeggios. The expressive and vigorous traversal of the more emotionally complex Fantasy was very much in a grand, virtuosic style – suitably bold, appropriately anguished, and totally magical, the melodies floating along on waves of feeling and imagination.

After intermission, Kissin’s playing became even more intense and impressive. Brahms’s Four Ballades were delivered somewhat slowly but with great strength and an engaging sense of atmosphere. The first, nicknamed ‘Edward’ after the Scottish ballad that inspired it, evoked a grim and mysterious past, while the complimentary second, in D-major, was more vibrant. The impulsive No.3 contrasted effectively with the dreamy and lyrical No.4 enhanced by wonderfully blended tone and mellow sonority.     

But Kissin was at his very best in his dynamic account of Prokofiev’s Sonata No.2, where his bravura technique was on full display as he moved freely between the work’s extremes of mood, texture and tonality, playing with panache, enormous concentration and control. As radiant as the other readings were, the palette of coloristic effects he elicited here was broader, and his balancing techniques were more supple.

Three encores were offered. A lively Chopin Mazurka in A-minor, Op.68/4, followed by more Prokofiev – the ‘March’ from The Love for Three Oranges, and then further Brahms – a refined and elegant rendition of the Waltz in A-flat, Op.39/15.

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