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CD: MDT AmazonUK AmazonUS

The Russian Archives - Evgeni Kissin
Track-listing at end of review
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 9243 [3 CDs: 56:28 + 61:32 + 50:45]

Experience Classicsonline

Surely one of the most charismatic of child prodigies of the past fifty years is Evgeni Kissin who still at age 40 has his boyish good looks. When he first burst onto the music scene playing the two Chopin concertos at 12 years of age he was a sensation. I remember buying the Melodiya two record set on what was then Gorki Street in Moscow for the princely sum of under £3 shortly after its release in 1984. This little boy is on the cover sitting at the piano wearing a red pioneer scarf round his neck contrasting sharply with his shock of black hair. None of the recordings on these three discs date from later than 1989 when he was still only 17 but what playing! The first disc has him in the Tchaikovsky 1st under Gergiev in which the orchestra sounds a little one dimensional (possible recording issue). One can’t fault his understanding of the piece which must run in the musical blood of all Russian pianists however young they are. Kissin entered the Moscow Gnessin School of Music, a school for gifted children, at the age of 6. There he met the person who was to become the only teacher he has ever had, Anna Pavlovna Kantor. Surely this must be unique, ensuring a continuity of ideas between pianist and teacher that is rare indeed.

The Shostakovich comes off better than the Tchaikovsky and is a great work full of Shostakovich’s mordant humour. Though Kissin was a mere 17 year old when it was recorded it is clear that he has every sympathy for and understanding of it.

The second disc is an all-Prokofiev affair and the performances here really staggered me. Prokofiev is a composer whose music is difficult to articulate in order to reveal its particular appeal but Kissin had no problem in doing so at such a young age: 13 for the concerto and visions fugitives and 14 for the piano sonata and dance. At almost 28 minutes the sonata is an especially and fiendishly complex work to bring off. Plumbing its emotional depths must be a challenge for any pianist irrespective of age and experience. It beggars belief that Kissin had such an understanding of it so early on yet leads one to think “he’s been here before!”. This disc for me is the particular gem in the collection – just listen to his playing of the final movement of the sonata and marvel at it as you cannot help but do.

The third disc is another joy as Kissin seems born to play Rachmaninov whose music is ideally suited to Kissin’s ability to get inside the music. His phrasing is beautifully measured and his chosen tempo just right. I found his playing of the Prelude in G flat, Op.23 No.10 particularly moving. The Études-tableaux, Op.39 are again superbly played and, at under 15 when he recorded them, it is once again amazing that he could project the deeply felt emotion in the music with its quick changes from loud to little more than a whisper with such knowing accuracy. Scriabin is another composer whose works also require a maturity to fathom and interpret yet once again these are elements Kissin appears to have had in abundance when these pieces were recorded back in the 1980s. Entering Scriabin’s musically mystical world must seem daunting for anyone young but Kissin never appears fazed by such considerations and turns in performances of magisterial proportions. The mercurial changes of mood and tempo are perfectly demonstrated and Preludes nos. 3 in B and 4 in G minor and are cases in point.

Evgeni Kissin has established himself as one of the great interpreters of Russian piano repertoire and this three disc set is well worth acquiring at Brilliant Classics’ amazingly competitive prices.
Steve Arloff

CD 1 [56:28]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Piano Concerto No.1 in B flat minor, Op.23 [33:51]
St Petersburg Academy Symphony Orchestra/Valeri Gergiev
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Concerto for Piano, Trumpet and Orchestra in C minor, Op.35 [22:36]
Bernard Soustrot (trumpet)
St Petersburg Chamber Orchestra/Vladimir Spivakov
CD 2 [61:32]
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Piano Concerto No.3 in C, Op.26 [28:05]
Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra/Andrey Chistiakov
Piano Sonata No.6 in A, Op.82 [27:48]
Dance, Op.32 No.2 [3:06] (from 4 pieces, Op.32)
2 Visions fugitives: Ridicolosamente [1:08]; Con vivacità [1:19]
CD 3 [50:45]
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Lilacs [2:05]; Prelude in F sharp minor, Op.23 No.1 [2:48]; Prelude in A minor, Op.32 No.8 [1:39]; Prelude in G flat, Op.23 No.10 [3:10]
Études-tableaux, Op.39: C minor [3:21]; A minor [6:08]; B minor [3:34]; E flat minor [4:47]; A minor [2:59]
Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915)
2 Preludes, Op.27 [2:51]; 4 Preludes, Op.37 [5:21]; 4 Pieces, Op.51 [6:55]; Mazurka in E minor, Op.25 No.3 [2:00]; Étude in C sharp minor, Op.42 No.5 [3:08]
rec. CD 1: 30 March 1987 (Tchaikovsky), 26 December 1988 (Shostakovich); CD 2: 23 May 1985 (Piano Concerto, Visions fugitives), 23 May 1986 (Piano Sonata No.6, Dance); CD 3: (Rachmaninov); 28 December 1985 (CD 3: Scriabin 2 Preludes, 4 Preludes, 4 Pieces Nos. 1-2); 28 May 1989 (CD 3: 4 Pieces No.3); 23 May, 1986 (CD 3: 4 Pieces No.4, Mazurka, Étude in C sharp minor)
*Note: There is a misprint that suggests some were recorded on two different days but I have assumed what I believe is correct since I believe they are all live recordings. No recording venues are given.









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