Evgeny Kissin | News | A Master At Play: Evgeny Kissin Releases Sensational Recital From Last Summer’s Salzburg Festival

A Master At Play: Evgeny Kissin Releases Sensational Recital From Last Summer’s Salzburg Festival

Evgeny Kissin Salzburger Festspiele
© Salzburger Festspiele / Marco Borelli
In August 2021, as the Salzburg Festival made a meticulously planned return to full capacity, Evgeny Kissin drew a sell-out crowd to the city’s Grosses Festspielhaus. He treated his audience to a strikingly original programme of works by Berg, Chopin, Gershwin and, to the surprise of some, Khrennikov. A generous selection of encores featured Mendelssohn and Debussy, as well as more Chopin and one of Kissin’s own compositions. The pianist is quick to note that he is always “more inspired in front of an audience”, and on this occasion his choice of music and spellbinding artistry combined to create a performance which, despite lasting almost two hours, was notable for its “deep intensity and concentration” (Bachtrack). Recorded live by Deutsche Grammophon, The Salzburg Recital is now set for release as a double-disc CD and an e-album on 02 September 2022.
The Salzburg Recital ranges from the 19th-century soundworld of Chopin to the work of three early 20th-century composers who emerged from very distinctive traditions: those of Austria, the US and the USSR.
The album opens with Berg’s Piano Sonata No. 1, a work that extends the boundaries of conventional tonality to reveal a late-Romantic soundworld of contrasting introspection and emotional turbulence. Kissin has also chosen music by Berg’s close contemporary George Gershwin. The two men met in Vienna in 1928 and admired each other’s music. Gershwin was himself an outstanding pianist and his Three Preludes of 1926, combining classical, jazz, blues and ragtime influences, soon became a cornerstone of the American repertoire.
An exceptional pianist of an earlier age, Chopin too drew inspiration from the popular music of his day. Kissin here performs a monumental sequence of works by the composer, starting with the sublime Nocturne in B major Op. 62 No. 1 and continuing with three of the four Impromptus, No. 1 in A flat major, No. 2 in F sharp major and No. 3 in G flat major. Their genial mood is swept away by the opening chord and fiery introduction of the Scherzo No. 1 in B minor Op. 20, a work of tremendous musical complexity – the Salzburger Nachrichten noted the “arresting energy” with which Kissin “brought out [its] demonic elements”. Bringing the Chopin section to a close is an electrifying account of the Polonaise in A flat major Op. 53.
Perhaps the most unexpected inclusion in this eclectic programme, however, are the miniatures by the young Tikhon Khrennikov, who went on to become Secretary-General of the Union of Soviet Composers and a deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. The optimistic vitality of his Dance and Five Pieces bears witness to the paradox of a man later obliged to denounce the “formalist” work of colleagues such as Shostakovich and Prokofiev, while working behind the scenes to protect those at threat from the Soviet authorities, many Jewish composers and performers among them. Kissin, who performed in Khrennikov’s presence as a child, is keen that he be remembered for his deeds, rather than for the words imposed on him by a totalitarian régime.
The Salzburg Recital closes with no fewer than four encores: the “Duetto” from Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words Op. 38, Kissin’s own sparky Dodecaphonic Tango, Chopin’s Scherzo No. 2 and, offering a final moment of stillness after wild applause, Debussy’s Clair de lune.
Exploring music by composers of different styles, backgrounds and nationalities, Kissin succeeds in weaving together a programme of fascinating echoes and contrasts. His focused, ever insightful readings reveal perhaps what matters most in this personal selection – the love shared by artist and composers alike for the piano itself.
Like the recital itself, the album is dedicated to the memory of Kissin’s teacher, Anna Pavlovna Kantor, who died at the age of 98 on 27 July 2021. Kissin was just six when he received his first lesson from her at Moscow’s illustrious Gnessin State Musical College. “Soon after I began my studies with her,” he recalls, “Anna Pavlovna became for me much more than a teacher … She became very close to our whole family, and 30 years ago she moved to live with us. She was my only piano teacher, and everything I am able to do on the piano I owe to her.”
Kissin returns to the Salzburg Festival this year for a solo recital of music by J.S. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin on 5 August 2022 and a duo recital with Sir András Schiff on 9 August. His solo programme will also reach audiences in Brussels, Luxembourg, Wuppertal, Essen, Munich and the Verbier Festival throughout June and July.