Evgeny Kissin at Carnegie Hall – Beethoven (Waldstein Sonata), Prokofiev, Chopin (Nocturnes & Mazurkas) & Liszt

Piano Sonata No.21 in C, Op.53 (Waldstein)
Piano Sonata No.4 in C minor, Op.29 (From old notebooks)
Nocturnes – In B flat minor, Op.9/1; in B, Op.9/3; in C minor, Op.48/1
Mazurkas – in F sharp minor, Op.6/1; in C sharp minor, Op.6/2; in E, Op.6/3; in A minor, Op.7/2; in F minor, Op.7/3; in C sharp minor, Op.41/1
Hungarian Rhapsody No.15 in A minor (Rákóczi-induló)

Evgeny Kissin (piano)

Reviewed by: Elizabeth Barnette

Reviewed: 16 May, 2015
Venue: Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall, New York City

Evgeny KissinPhotograph: Felix BroedeWhile presenters at times are struggling to fill concert halls, there still are artists who are guaranteed to attract an audience. Evgeny Kissin not only played to a sold-out house, but stage seats had been set up as well. In fact, he is in such demand that his next Carnegie Hall recital in November is scheduled to be given twice.

There is good reason for music-lovers to want to hear this pianist. Since he was a child prodigy, playing Chopin’s Piano Concertos at age 12 with a recording of them issued, Kissin has impressed with his stupendous technique and natural musicality. Now in his early-forties, he is reaching ever-deeper levels of insight, as was immediately apparent in Beethoven’s ‘Waldstein’ Sonata, a daring choice at the beginning of a program. The first movement was perfectly paced and structured, including a breathtaking moment of repose just before the final outburst. And while the second thoroughly explored the composer’s mysterious moods, it led seamlessly to a Finale that, although not lacking in power at appropriate moments, almost could be called innocent in character. No sentimentality here, but brilliant passagework and finely balanced chords to spin-forth the narrative.

By contrast, in Prokofiev’s Fourth Piano Sonata Kissin brought out the almost impressionistic aspects of the work, especially in the lengthy middle movement, while still giving impish rhythms their due in the Finale.

The Chopin group comprised lesser-known Nocturnes and Mazurkas. Kissin took a mostly lyrical approach, while acknowledging the pieces’ different characters. This was neither salon music nor overly intellectualized Chopin, but a most sensitive yielding to modulations and balancing of voices, with an emphasis on the linear melodic elements. Indeed, the B-major Nocturne could almost be described as a ‘song without words’.

Bringing the concert to an exciting end, Kissin displayed all of his formidable technique in Liszt’s ‘Rakoczy March’ Hungarian Rhapsody. As full-blooded and powerful as his performance was, it never turned bombastic, a rare feat during the onslaught of big chords and hands flying through fortissimo octave passages. It was a genuine triumph. There were three most-fitting encores – Chopin’s Waltz in B minor (Opus 69/2), Liszt’s ‘La Chasse’ (from the Paganini Etudes), and the ‘March’ (transcribed) from Prokofiev’s opera The Love of Three Oranges – the shy artist even had a smile on his face.

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