Evgeny Kissin at Carnegie Hall – Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert & Liszt

Sonata in E flat, Hob.XVI:49
Piano Sonata No.32 in C minor, Op.111
Impromptus, D935 – No.1 in F minor; No.3 in B flat
Impromptus, D899 – No.3 in G flat; No.4 in A flat
Hungarian Rhapsody No.12 in C sharp minor

Evgeny Kissin (piano)

Reviewed by: Elizabeth Barnette

Reviewed: 3 May, 2013
Venue: Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall, New York City

Evgeny Kissin. Photograph: Felix Broede / EMIPiano recitals sometimes focus on one composer, one era, or a specific theme. Other concepts are less obvious, yet well-conceived. Evgeny Kissin first led us from a late Haydn Sonata, emphasizing its forward-looking elements such as expanded range, which pre-echoes Beethoven’s style, to the German master’s towering Opus 111. In the second half he assembled four Schubert Impromptus into a sonata-like structure, which had some textural elements in common with Liszt’s C sharp minor Hungarian Rhapsody. The logic of Kissin’s approach continued through the encores when – after a tribute to his late father (Gluck’s ‘Melodie’ from Orfeo ed Euridice in Sgambati’s arrangement) – he went from Liszt (the F minor Transcendental Etude, ‘Appassionata’) to his transcription of Schubert’s Die Forelle (The Trout, D550).

While Kissin’s extraordinary technical command has been praised at length ever since he came to international attention as a child prodigy, what was striking about it in this context was the degree to which he has transcended digital prowess as well as intellectual analysis. His performance brought to mind a reminiscence of Fritz Löhr, one of Mahler’s closest friends, about the composer’s playing of Opus 111: “he was not aware at all of what his hands were doing … any thought of technical difficulty was completely switched off, enraptured, disembodied, passionately spiritually devoted to whatever entered his being from the printed notes without conscious contact with the material.” Kissin likewise deeply immersed himself into Beethoven’s world – from the tempestuous opening Maestoso to the disembodied, ethereal ending – emphasizing the work’s improvisatory character, yet at the same time creating a coherent structure to spellbinding effect.

Kissin’s command of the long line was in evidence most admirably perhaps in Schubert’s B flat Impromptu, the variations following each other organically. In addition, the pianist was perfectly and sensitively attuned to shifts of harmony and color. He created moments of discreet recognition and exquisite resolution in both Schubert and Haydn, while also acknowledging the latter’s humor without distortion. Throughout the recital Kissin showed himself a master of voicing, texture and atmosphere, his superb pianism culminating in an idiomatic and enthralling performance of the Hungarian Rhapsody.

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