An astonishing live performance by the 15-year-old Kissin, with a sense of danger courted and triumphantly surmounted.
Kissin's generous lyricism and lovely rubato in Rachmaninov's Lilacs make a distinguished prelude to this recital; but they are only a hint of the revelations to come. The big E flat minor Etude tableau drenches the listener in an extraordinary welter of sound, at once free and controlled, sensitive to harmonic nuance and yet to broader undercurrents as well. And it is followed by a phenomenally articulate C minor, swirling and crackling like a force of nature (with just a couple of accidents on the last page as a brief reminder of human frailty).
The apex of the recital is a colossalRead more account of the Prokofiev Sixth Sonata. Pianistically it has everything—tremendous force, tremendous resonance, wonderful sensitivity to texture and colour, inspired pedalling, fantastic rhythmic grasp, supreme control whatever the extremes of tempo or dynamic. And all these are at the service of a vision which penetrates to the essence of Prokofiev's art—the subdued half-lights and obsessive drive of the first movement, the deadly serious clowning of the second, the stoical suffering of the third, and above all the appalling despair at the heart of the finale. Please don't think I've taken leave of my critical senses—I noted in passing that the rhythm in the last three bars of the first movement is wrong and that Kissin nearly burns himself out before the tumultous last page of the finale. But if this doesn't qualify as a great performance I don't know what does.
So far I've managed to avoid mentioning that Kissin was aged just 15 and seven months at the time of this recital. In his Rachmaninov and Prokofiev it never occurred to me to think about that, either as a plus or a minus. The remaining pieces do perhaps fall into a less exalted category—they are merely astonishing considering his youth. The Liszt studies are seductive, poetic and rhetorical but not yet entirely settled; the Chopin Nocturne could breathe more freely and has a nasty mannerism of right hand before left, a reversal of bad habits of olden days; the Polonaise sacrifices pride and grace for allpurpose grandeur, unimaginatively driving home every first beat in the bar. For all their finesse, I can imagine the Scriabin pieces reaching further out into the unreal and the ecstatic; and the Japanese encores are wholly trivial and forgettable.
Perhaps the biggest drawback of all is the ultraclose microphone placement. But Kissin is one of the select few whose playing can withstand such clinical scrutiny; and such is the electricity he generates, so strong his empathy with Rachrnaninov and Prokofiev, that you feel inside the music both spiritually and acoustically. I suppose it is conceivable Kissin will one day make an even finer studio recording of the Prokofiev; but I would not bank on it re-creating the magic, the sense of danger courted and triumphantly surmounted, of this astonishing live performance.
-- Gramophone [11/1990]
Note: According to the CD packaging, Kissin plays Liszt's Un Sospiro, S 144 no 3 when in fact the piece he performs is Liszt's Waldesrauschen, S 145 no 1. Read less
Works on This Recording
Songs (12), Op. 21: no 5, Lilacsby Sergei Rachmaninov Performer:
Evgeny Kissin (Piano)
Period: Romantic Written: 1902; Russia Date of Recording: 5/87 Venue: Live Suntory Hall, Tokyo Notes: Arranged: Rachmaninov