Evgeny Kissin is at his best on new record

Classical Sounds

March 31, 1996|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

Schumann, Fantasy in C major, Liszt, "Transcendental Etudes" Nos. 5 ("Feux Follets"), 8 ("Wilde Jagd"), 10 in F minor, 11 ("Harmonies du Soir"), and 12 ("Chasse-Neige"), performed by pianist Evgeny Kissin (RCA Victor Red Seal 09026-68262-2):

Only 24 years old, Evgeny Kissin has already given us some of the finest piano recordings ever made. This tops everything he has already done.

The Fantasy is one of the most difficult works in the literature, musically as well as technically. Kissin makes us forget about its difficulty, allowing us to focus on how intensely human it is. In the first movement, the pianist immediately makes the listener feel as if he has suddenly caught a singer midway in passionate song. The movement unfolds spontaneously, bolstered by pianistic power without a hint of clangor and by a sense of architecture rare in a performance of Schumann.

In the second movement, Kissin makes the leaps in contrary motion in the coda sound ridiculously easy. Even more impressive is the manner in which he relates this triumphal march to the passionate song of the first movement and the nocturnal ecstasy of the final one. That last movement is played with simplicity and directness that only a handful of pianists in history -- and only when they were much older than Kissin currently is -- have mastered.

The performances of the five "Transcendental Etudes" by Liszt may be even more beautiful than that of the Schumann. These performances are, of course, filled with astonishing bravura. In "Feux Follets," the dazzling speed and delicacy matches and possibly surpasses those to be found in the legendary performances of 40 years ago by Sviatoslav Richter and Vladimir Ashkenazy. In "Wilde Jagd," the young pianist is without peer in the way he manages the composer's explosive, almost Stravinskyan syncopations.

But the most remarkable playing comes in "Harmonies du Soir." This music looks forward to the evanescent textures of Debussy and anticipates the massive chordal writing of Rachmaninoff. Heretofore "Harmonies du Soir" has been Richter's private domain. With its command of myriad colors and its shafts of brilliance, this performance reaches a level of sustained ecstasy comparable to those of the older Russian.

L If you buy only one piano record this year, this is the one.

Pub Date: 3/31/96

Hear the music

To hear excerpts from pianist Evgeny Kissin's new release, call Sundial at (410) 783-1800 and enter the four-digit code 6190. For other local Sundial numbers, see the Sundial directory on Page 2A.

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