This is the second of Brilliant's box sets devoted to Russian recordings from Evgeny Kissin. Labeled as early, these live concert performances from 1984 to 1990 carry us from the day after Kissin turned 13 (Mozart Cto. #12 K. 414) to age 18 (Mozart Cto. #20, K. 466), with most readings clustering in the range of 1985-89. Russians were well aware of the marvel in their midst; the pianist's American breakthrough occurred in 1990 when he debuted at Carnegie Hall's centennial season. No one since Richter, debuting almost thirty years before, had made such a heady entry, and Richter was past fifty when he came here (briefly, since he loathed American capitalism and the pace of life in our big cities).
Recorded live, this Chopin program featuring three Impromptus, four Polonaises, and the Fantasie-Impromptu has all the electricity of a performance. Kissin, who captivated the world two decades ago as a sensational prodigy, is today a spectacular pianist and compelling personality. His virtuosity is by now taken for granted, but perhaps most extraordinary is his uncanny ability to change mood and expression instantaneously and to pace and build up climaxes. This is a matter not only of technique but of emotional concentration and involvement, yet it would be impossible without his mastery of touch, color, and nuance. Kissin's tone is beautiful: he can make the piano sing in long, sustained lines and his runs are brilliant and fleet but perfectly clear.
Here are sets of Pictures to suit almost every personal art gallery. The newest issue (though not the most recently recorded—it has a 1979 analogue source) is the least memorable. The orchestral playing is excellent and certain portrayals are striking, the ”Ballet of Unhatched Chicks”, for instance and ”Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuyle”, while the closing sequence is strongly projected.
The young Kissin was able to work wonders in Prokofiev–above all the Sixth Sonata (Kissin in Tokyo - Yevgeny Kissin). Regrettably, the mature Kissin recently delivered highly disappointing live performances of the Second and Third Concertos (Prokofiev: Piano Concertos Nos. 2 & 3), indeed, regardless of the predictable rave in the British press. This 1994 recording of the First and Third Concertos is unquestionably very good, especially the youthful First, although competition is very strong–from Graffman/Szell (Prokofiev: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 3) and Argerich/Dutoit (Prokofiev: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 3 / Bartok: Piano Concerto No. 3) in this coupling, and from the complete sets by Berman/Gutierrez/Järvi, Toradze/Gergiev and Krainev/Kitaenko.
In his 2003 production for the Maggio Musicale in Florence, director Jonathan Miller invested the complex relationships between the characters with countless tiny erotic charges and even obvious sexual symbols. The artistic director of the renowned Maggio Musicale festival Zubin Mehta brings out not only the tension and drive of the music but also its harmonic richness. The singers all belong to the international opera scene and not only provide excellent vocal quality but also strong acting skills, which help to tell the gripping story with its many disguises, mix-ups and discoveries: Russian soprano Eteri Gvazava internationally recognised since her sensational Traviata à Paris filming partnering José Cura is wonderful to watch and to hear in the role of the sad but contriving Countess Almaviva. Patrizia Ciofi, the Italian belcanto star is Susanna with all her intriguing acting skills and her pointed vocal intensity. Lucio Gallo who plays the evil character in this plot is one of the foremost Italian baritones. The title role is sung by Giorgio Surian, a bass-baritone who started off on the Italian opera scene, but has since made a steady career on international opera stages.