Russian pianist Evgeny Kissin is one of the most distinguished musicians of his generation, revered the world over by audiences and critics alike for the virtuosity and eloquence of his pianism and the imagination and insight of his interpretations. Reviewing his recital at the Barbican in April 2018, The Independent (London) highlighted not just his “technically flawless” playing but his “marvellous control of colour and textures”, while a month later, Washington Classical Review reserved particular praise for his “visceral, anguished rendition of [Beethoven’s] ‘Hammerklavier’” at the Kennedy Center. Appropriate acclaim for an artist always in high demand by the world’s leading orchestras and conductors of the calibre of Vladimir Ashkenazy, Daniel Barenboim, Riccardo Muti, Seiji Ozawa and Sir Antonio Pappano.
Evgeny Kissin was born in Moscow in October 1971. Endowed with a truly rare gift for music, he began to play by ear and improvise on the piano soon after his second birthday, though his passion for the instrument was fully ignited even before that. At the age of six, he enrolled at Moscow’s Gnessin School, an elite establishment for young musicians, where he received lessons from Anna Pavlovna Kantor, who became his only teacher. Kissin’s progress was such that he gave his first full performance with orchestra at the age of ten, making his debut with Mozart’s Piano Concerto in D minor K466; he presented his first recital in Moscow the following year. His international breakthrough came in March 1984, when he performed Chopin’s Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory with the Moscow State Philharmonic conducted by Dmitri Kitayenko.
The live recording of Kissin’s interpretations of the Chopin concertos, released on the Melodia label, confirmed the maturity of the twelve-year-old pianist’s musicianship and introduced him to an audience beyond the Soviet Union. He made his debut in Eastern Europe in 1985, toured Japan the following year, and appeared in Western Europe for the first time at the 1987 Berlin Festival. In the summer of 1988 he gave a private performance for Herbert von Karajan, who then invited him to perform Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.1 with the Berliner Philharmoniker at the orchestra’s forthcoming New Year’s Eve Concert in Berlin. Deutsche Grammophon’s recording, released in September 1989 within weeks of Karajan’s death, was immediately recognised as a major milestone in the work’s recorded history.
Evgeny Kissin gave his first performance at the BBC Proms in July 1990 and made his North American debut soon after, performing Chopin’s two piano concertos with the New York Philharmonic and Zubin Mehta. He opened Carnegie Hall’s centennial season in September 1990 with a spectacular debut recital, the live recording of which proved an exceptional critical and commercial success. His discography also includes a Grammy Award-winning album of solo works by Scriabin, Medtner and Stravinsky; Beethoven’s complete piano concertos with the London Symphony Orchestra and Sir Colin Davis; a Grammy Award-winning recording of Prokofiev’s Piano Concertos Nos. 2 & 3 with the Philharmonia and Vladimir Ashkenazy; and discs devoted to solo works by Brahms, Chopin and Schumann. In addition, it features a number of early landmark recordings for Deutsche Grammophon, critically acclaimed collaborations with the Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan and Claudio Abbado among them.
In June 2017 Kissin signed a new exclusive contract with the yellow label, and the launch of this renewed relationship with DG was marked by the release in August 2017 of a double-disc set comprising live recordings of popular sonatas and other piano works by Beethoven. His next album, set for release on 5 April 2019, will be The New York Concert. Made at Carnegie Hall, the recording captures the last of the eight concerts Kissin gave with the Emerson String Quartet in the early months of 2018, and features music by Mozart, Fauré and Dvořák.
Highlights of Kissin’s 2017–18 season included performances of Bartók’s Piano Concerto No.2 in Monte Carlo, Hamburg and Paris and recital tours of Europe and North America with Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” Sonata and selections from Rachmaninov’s Preludes, as well as the above-mentioned tour with the Emerson String Quartet, which took in venues in Baden-Baden, Paris, Munich, Essen, Vienna, Chicago, Boston and New York.
Evgeny Kissin’s achievements have been recognised with many prestigious awards and prizes. He received the International Prize of the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in 1991 and became Musical America’s youngest Instrumentalist of the Year in 1995. Two years later Kissin received the Triumph Award for his outstanding contribution to Russian culture, among the Russian Federation’s highest cultural honours, and became the first pianist to give a solo recital at the BBC Proms since the festival’s foundation in 1895. His other honours include the Shostakovich Award (2003), Honorary Membership of London’s Royal Academy of Music (2005), the Herbert von Karajan Music Prize (2005), the Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli Award (2007), and honorary doctorates from the Manhattan School of Music (2001), the University of Hong Kong (2009), the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (2010) and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (2014). His collection of autobiographical writings, Memoirs and Reflections, was published in 2017.