Evgeny Kissin releases Beethoven album to launch new exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon after 25 years

“It has been clear for some time that Evgeny Kissin is a Beethoven player of rare pedigree and distinction, the finest Russian-born Beethovenian since Emil Gilels,” Gramophone

Any history of the great pianists would be incomplete without a chapter devoted to Evgeny Kissin. The 45-year-old artist is blessed with the rare qualities required to enter the pantheon of piano legends. A recent recital at London’s Barbican Centre inspired the Telegraph to describe his playing as “miraculous”, while the New York Times wrote of the pianist’s “blend of technical mastery and eloquent artistry” following a spellbinding performance at Carnegie Hall.

After a break of twenty-five years, the pianist has signed a new exclusive contract with the yellow label. Kissin’s discography already contains landmark recordings for Deutsche Grammophon, critically acclaimed collaborations with the Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan and Claudio Abbado among them, and the association between artist and label resumes with the release of a Beethoven album in August. The double-disc set, its programme personally chosen by Kissin from recitals given over the past decade, includes Piano Sonatas No. 14 Op. 27 No. 2, “Moonlight”, No. 23 Op. 57, “Appassionata”, and No. 26 Op. 81a, “Les Adieux”. It also comprises the evergreen 32 Variations in C minor WoO 80 and a profound exploration of the sublime two-movement Piano Sonata No. 32 Op. 111, the composer’s final work in the genre. The album, Kissin’s first solo recital recording in more than a decade, represents a major addition to his Beethoven discography and an essential document of his artistic development.

“These recordings were made in the moment of performance,” observes the pianist. “Live recordings always surpass studio albums for me, because I feel more inspired when playing for an audience. It means a lot to me to be able to share the spirit of that live experience with others.”

Evgeny Kissin made his mark as a child prodigy in Russia in the early 1980s. He entranced international audiences with captivating interpretations of Romantic masterworks during his teens, and has since flourished as one of the world’s most charismatic and visionary performers. Herbert von Karajan, beguiled by Kissin’s playing, invited him to perform Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 at the Berliner Philharmoniker’s New Year’s Eve concert in 1988. The combination of young soloist and charismatic conductor produced a revelatory interpretation, recorded by Deutsche Grammophon and released a few months after Karajan’s death in July 1989.

Kissin’s collaboration with the conductor appears as a compelling episode in his autobiography. Memoirs and Reflections, scheduled for publication on 8 June 2017 by the London-based Orion Press, offers a moving account of the pianist’s childhood in Russia, explores his close relationship with his parents and his teacher, Anna Pavlovna Kantor, and casts light on the inspirational world of the Russian-Jewish intelligentsia. It also encompasses Kissin’s philosophical outlook and self-understanding, together with his penetrating observations on fellow musicians and creative artists.

“Audiences have been captivated by Evgeny Kissin’s poetic artistry, brilliant mind and fearless virtuosity for more than thirty years,” comments Dr Clemens Trautmann, President Deutsche Grammophon. “We are delighted to continue our relationship with an artist who takes pleasure in playing for people. This is underlined by the fact that Evgeny Kissin explicitly opted for a live album – with excerpts from recitals given around the world, from New York to Seoul, Vienna to Verbier. His new album records his evolving relationship with Beethoven, a composer to whom his approach is particularly suited. Rarely is the transformation of written music into an intellectual and emotional listening experience as palpable and compelling as it is with Kissin’s Beethoven.”

Ute Fesquet, Vice President Artists & Repertoire at DG, also welcomes the opportunity of working with the pianist. “Discussing with Evgeny which Beethoven recordings to select for this album from a huge treasure trove of material was a fascinating and rewarding process,” she notes. “We feel honoured and blessed that he has put his trust in us to share them with the world. It is of course no coincidence that this anthology will be released shortly after he returns to the international stage after a sabbatical with a programme featuring several key works by Beethoven. And there is much more to come…”