Theme and Variations

Thoughts and experiences of exploring classical, jazz, and other art music.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Evgeny Kissin

A few weeks ago I was in my doctor's office and she had a CD playing on her computer CD drive. I listened for a bit, and thought to myself, "That piece sounds familiar." On top of a stack of discs was the jewel case for the CD. It was Chopin's Piano Concerti 1 and 2. On the spine was the name Kissin.

As I listened, I thought to myself, "Pretty good. There's a lot of feeling in the piano playing." My doctor came in and said, "Oh, I'm sorry, does the music bother you?" "Not at all, I like this piece," I replied.

She said, "Would you believe the guy playing piano was only twelve years old when he recorded that?"


"Yeah! I thought you had to be pretty mature to play Chopin with so much feeling, but he was only twelve!"

And indeed he was. Evgeny Kissin was twelve when he recorded the two piano concerti on March 27, 1984, with the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Dmitri Kitaenko.

Born in Moscow in 1971 (according to this site and many others), Kissin was the son of a piano playing mother and a father who was an engineer. He began playing piano at the age of two. At the age six he was sent off to a school for gifted youth, and history was made.

As I write this, the Chopin's Piano Concerto (No. 1 in E minor, Op. 11) is playing. It isn't just amazing that a twelve year old could put so much feeling into a piece, there's also a fantastic amount of skill and virtuosity on display in this recording. The concerto requires quite a bit of dexterity, and Kissin pulls it off with ease.

This week I got another recording of a Kissin performance, the Piano Concerto No. 3, in D minor, Op. 30, of Sergei Rachmaninoff. On this CD he plays with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under conductor Seiji Ozawa. Rachmaninoff was a fantastic piano player, and his own compositions were written to show off his talent. The third piano concerto is a highly technical piece, with alternative music for some of the more difficult passages. But Kissin plays the music as it was written, with its tremendous runs up and down the keyboard. Clearly, Kissin is a master of the piano, and shows it in this demanding piece.

The site listed above states that he also composes, though I have not seen any recordings of his own works. Apparently he plays a limited number of concerts. Hopefully there will be CD's of his compositions, they might prove to be historic.

(If you have realplayer, you can hear some of the Chopin here...scroll down.)