Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Pianist

Evgeny Kissin

 Initially, I want to address the recording by Kissin with the Moscow Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra that was my introduction to his work. It was done almost two decades ago when Evgeny was 13, about a year after he began to came to the attention of national leaders in Russia and the larger circle of international music figures.
 
 It is # 60051-2-RC in the RCA Victor Red Seal Series [Melodiya VDC-1330]: Sergei Prokofiev's Piano Concerto # 3, Visions Fugitives and Dance, piano by Evgeny Kissin and Moscow Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra on everything else (Andrei Chistakov conducting). And it has two movements at the end that are written by Kissin himself, as "Two Inventions".

 In the second-to-last scene of the movie "10", Bo Derek's character is saying she likes to use certain music, certain composers, for certain events going on in her life - this kind for housework, that one for exercising, etc. So her male visitor naturally wants to know about what she has playing now. "So what do you like to do to Prokofiev?" Her calm answer was "F___."
 If ANYTHING could make Prokofiev sound sexy and like something I'd want to develop an appreciation for, that should do it. But... no. Prokofiev, like most "Modern Classical" composers of the early-to-mid 1900s, doesn't reach my soul like say, earlier classical composers, or Amel Larrioux, or 38 Special or Sara Evans or Disturbed. They mostly have me wanting to look around for where the movie is that I'm apparently missing. It doesn't help that Prokofiev is supposed to have great cleverness and a sense of humor. So did Syd Barrett of early Pink Floyd, and the latter is more fun to listen to, I say.
 Listening for how the orchestra and Kissin express the material, I can appreciate it in a technical sense. I can hear the alacrity, the passion, the critical mass of musicianship, but despite the talent here Prokofiev still isn't a composer I warm up to. Sorry.
 HOWEVER. At the end of the CD are the 13-year-old's own "Two Inventions." Suddenly we are propelled back through time a couple of centuries or so. I hear the influence of several of the great classical composers, there's definitely some Chopin shadowing it, yet more the warm feel of a Mozart piece. It makes the whole CD worthwhile for me. BTW, he was playing his own compositions at 7.
 I scanned through the reviews of his live concerts. Uh, everyone has an opinion. Some of them are useful, some not. In general, those that describe rather than judge are useful On the other hand... Some of them would like to see Kissin interpret more with his head and less with his heart. My take on that is that if he did, it wouldn't be Kissin playing, it would be their flawed interpretation of Kissin. If they know the One True Way the composition should be interpreted, by all means they should walk up to the piano with THEIR boundless talent and play it their way, and see if others agree that theirs is THE perfect interpretation. No? Then shut up and enjoy the one who may be the most formidible classical pianist of our time. He is awesome not merely for his proficiency, but for his art.
 One thing they agree on (and so do I) is that he is passionate, lots of dynamics (loud and soft), pours his heart and soul into it and is likely to finish a concert exhausted, with sweat dripping, and may limit his encores to possibly three or four because his energy is spent. No cool technical renditions here. He gives it all he's got, and that's a lot. I find it enjoyable and satisfying, especially when I also like the composer.
 His early concerts specialized in Chopin, with everyone being stunned at this child bringing Chopin to life like nobody else could. In an interview more recently, he commented that he didn't have Beethoven mastered yet, so as to play him "adequately". But, a 2008 CD features exactly the Ludwig... I look forward to hearing it. It's "The Complete Piano Concertos" with the London Symphony Orchestra.

 You can hear a taste of his work on Beethoven and others on his website, which includes a discography:
   
 www.kissin.dk/

 The samples are medium-res 128k full-length mp3s, btw.

 And a few more on his MySpace site:
 http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewProfile&friendID=409069779

 This appears to be the Sony/BMG Music site for him:
  http://www.kissinmusic.com/


 Wiki has a short but decent article on him, with some good links:
 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evgeny_Kissin

 Which includes the link to this article that tells more than most:

  http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2004/jan/02/classicalmusicandopera.russia

 

Okay. More later. Peace and love to ya.


  J

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