Februar 19, 2003
Sonata No. 22 for piano in Bb major, D. 960
Schubert - Liszt
Ständchen, Das Wandern, Wohin?, Aufenthalt
Sonetto Nr. 104 del Petrarca
Mephisto Waltz No. 1
ArtistsJewgenij Kissin, Piano
Kissin recital: Berlin audience jubilant
What happens to a former child prodigy upon adulthood? If he continues to play brilliantly - and to be marketed with the right pieces in the right ambience - the 'Yevgeny Kissin' phenomenon could sell tickets and records for decades.
In the first movement of Franz Schubert's Bb major sonata, D. 960, Kissin breathed life into the word 'limpid'. Playing highly deliberately, every slight variation in a left-hand accompanying pattern was apparent, and each minor harmonic change savoured. The Andante sostenuto made it clear that Kissin was in it for the long haul: he built up extremely long phrases by dosing out dynamic changes over huge sections, feasible only with a rich dynamic palette. Interesting the middle section in A major: absolutely straight, no irony, no coyness. Many modern interpreters would have established a slight ironic distance to the material. He differentiated beautifully among the voices: the middle one sang out, the bass carried gently, a top voice occasionally rang through. Kissin had no remorse with the many coughers and continued directly into the third movement, interpreting it in a relatively more personal, less orthodox way. And the final Allegro, ma non troppo made pre-eminently clear why there were no breaks between the movements: the sonata formed a coherent whole.
The programme's second half consisted of arrangements by Franz Liszt of four Schubert songs and two original Liszt works. Programming these works in just this order showed canny insight into building audience excitement. The first Lied, Ständchen, was like Schubert with the dynamic and emotional scale turned up a notch. In Wohin? Kissin redefined what a singing, legato melody can mean, creating a truly luminous tone. The slight hesitations before important notes in the phrase did not feel mannered, simply right. And in the fourth song, Aufenthalt, Liszt - ergo Kissin - pulled out all the stops in a virtuoso, bathetic way that no longer much had much to do with Schubert. Liszt's Sonetto Nr. 104 was a lesson in how to play singing notes on a massive grand so that they carry to each of the almost 2,500 listeners. The performance of the Mephisto Waltz towed a fine line between spontaneity and robotic control: tempos were accelerated to as fast as humanly possible, dynamics built up to a huge volume. Sure enough, the audience went wild.
Kissin played three encores, and they described the same arch as the overall programme: a lyrical, heartfelt Schubert impromptu, a Liszt-Schubert song arrangement, and then a bombastic and popular Liszt work to wrap it up - from Schubertian simplicity to exaggerated Liszt gestures.
Despite Kissin's unbelievable pianistic abilities and felicitous interpretation of his carefully selected programme, one cannot completely deny the impression of a very skillfully orchestrated show.