Arguably two of the greatest musicians of this century will have come to Ann Arbor by the end of the month. If you missed Claudio Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic, you do not want to miss Evgeny Kissin, the newest Russian mastermind of the piano. You can find him at Hill Auditorium on Oct. 24th, where he will take to the stage the rarely performed “Pictures at an Exhibition,” by his fellow countryman Modest Mussorgsky. He will also be playing works by Schumann and Bach.
At the age of 30, Kissin has already taken his undisputed place among the likes of his Russian predecessors, Horowitz, Richter and Gilels. His musical sensitivities, bold temperament, near perfect technique and his capacity to produce such a varied range of color in his playing have helped to label him as a prowess of romantic literature. PBS has determined his contributions to the music world significant enough to film an entire documentary on his life, “Evgeny Kissin, The Gift of Music.”
Kissin began playing the piano at the age of two. At six, he entered the famed Gnessin Institute of Moscow, where he found his lifelong teacher, Anna Pavlovna Kantor. He first came to international attention at the tender age of 12 when he performed both Chopin Concertos with the Moscow State Symphony. That much talked-about feat was later repeated with the New York Philharmonic when he made his sold-out U.S. debut under the baton of Zubin Mehta. The collaboration was striking enough to earn him a Grammy nomination.
He has been playing to sold out concert halls worldwide ever since and has appeared with all the major orchestras led by the likes of Claudio Abbado, the late Herbert von Karajan, Seija Ozawa, and Zubin Mehta. Kissin easily caters to 55 concerts a season.
Besides taking to the stage, the pianist has created quite a daunting record catalog as well. His extensive discography includes works by Beethoven, Chopin, Haydn, Liszt, Prokofiev, Rachmaninov and others. Though often criticized for being too traditional in his choice of repertoire, it will be interesting to see how he develops and what he chooses to play 25 years from now. In that time, he may explore more contemporary realms and amaze us in those areas as well.
The public simply can”t seem to get enough of the overtly tall and gangly Kissin. Seemingly rigid and awkward when approaching the stage with his massive hands and equally massive Afro to match, perceptions instantly change when Kissin produces the first sonorous note. In one instance, he was called back for no less than 15 encores. It is a remarkable feat for such a young pianist, any pianist for that matter, to be able to feed his audience in this way to serve and stun over and over again without fail. The audience can expect nothing less than another legendary performance Wednesday night.