“He is a born musician and a born great pianist” – Vladimir Ashkenazy
Such is the accolade given by maestro Vladimir Ashkenazy, himself a virtuoso pianist, to Evgeny Kissin, one of the great pianists of our generation.
For a piano recital in Sydney this month, Kissin is playing the works of Liszt that includes the piano sonata in B minor, Ricordanza and Venizia e Napoli, S162.
In addition to the recital, he is also playing Grieg’s piano concerto in A minor and Chopin’s piano concerto no. 1 in E minor in two separate concerts.
Franz Liszt (22 October 1811 – 31 July 1886) was a Hungarian composer who was widely regarded by music critics to be one of the greatest if not the greatest pianist of all time.
As a composer, Liszt was prolific and composed music extensively for the piano although he also transcribed the works of other composers. The results of these transcriptions were often more creative than what Liszt or the original composer could achieve on their own.
Because of his foundation of being a technical virtuoso, his compositions are often difficult for the average musician. I particularly like interpreting his Consolation No. 3 in D flat major because the left hand plays subtle polyrhythms that subtle brings the beautiful melodic motives to life. Modulation between major and minor keys changes the mood and adds emotive colour to this piece.
As a pianist, Liszt was a virtuoso where technical brilliance became the foundation of a highly expressive style of playing. At the height of his career as a pianist, Liszt toured Europe extensively where he gave concerts which mainly consist of his own compositions, paraphrases and transcriptions.
This portrait by Henri Lehmann is my favourite and probably one of the most iconic paintings of the great composer.
Just as we celebrate Chopin’s bicentennial in 2010 last year, we will celebrate Liszt’s bicentennial next month.
Born on 10 October 1971 in Moscow, Evgeny Kissin was a child prodicy where at the age of eleven months, he was able to hum along to a Bach fugue that his sister was playing on the piano. By the age of four, he could play piano concertos solely from memory and began formal piano studies at the age of six at the Gnessin School of Music for Gifted Children.
Kissin is legendary for making his debut concert at the age of ten, playing Mozart’s piano concerto No. 20 in D minor. Two years later at the tender age of twelve, he played and recorded both Chopin’s piano concertos with the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra to critical acclaim by critics around the world. Hence, a star is born.
His fluid style is punctuated by precise technical wizardry whilst always respecting the musical artistry of the composers’ works. He has widely interpreted the works of Chopin and Liszt and has also been highly acknowledged for recording the complete works of Beethoven’s piano concertos.
Liebestraume (Dreams of Love) No. 3 in A flat major
This is one of the most important works for solo piano by Liszt and an all-time favourite among classical music lovers around the world.
Kissin’s performance shows the importance of remaining focused on the musicality that is the hallmark of Liszt.
The thumb of the right hand becomes a beautiful singer to introduce one of the most beautiful melodic lines ever written for the piano.
Personally, I feel the inner voices of the left hand arpeggios in the B major section could have been more subtle to enhance the melody of this crescendo section towards the climax. Nevertheless, his immaculate control of harmonizing the arpeggios of both hands brings the entire piece together beautifully.
I had the honour of meeting Evgeny Kissin at the Sydney Opera House today. He tells me that his busy schedule this week has meant little time to explore and take in the beautiful sights of Sydney.
However, he has enjoyed working and collaborating with his friend and colleague Vladimir Ashkenazy, the current musical director and conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. It is rather astonishing that between them both, they have a century of classical music experience.
Evgeny is travelling with his mother and will head to Japan after Sydney for his next series of concerts and recitals where he will also be celebrating his 40th birthday on 10 October in Tokyo.
I found Evgeny Kissin to be friendly and incredibly humble despite his immense talent. I have an extensive collection of his recordings and one of my favourites for solo piano is his complete recording of Chopin’s 24 preludes with a couple of bonus tracks which include the Polonaise in A flat major “Heroic”, Opus 53.
Sydney Opera House – an inspirational place for artists
Over the years the I have lived in Sydney, I often come to the Sydney Opera House to attend concerts and recitals by world-class musicians.
I am always in awe whenever I step into this iconic landmark of this beautiful city because of what it represents.
It is a symbol of cultural awareness, a hotbed for imagination and creativity and a home where some of the greatest musicians of our generation have performed.
It is a beautiful spring day and we wander around the foregrounds of the Sydney Opera House and come across some quotations by artists, performers and chefs who are associated with this iconic location.
“To perform at the Opera House is just amazing. It’s a beautiful place to come to work, here on the harbour, I just love the building, it’s like home in the big house when you come back here.” – Leah Purcell
“I feel very privileged coming to work every day in one of Australia’s most famous landmarks. I never tire of looking at the grand sails of the Sydney Opera House and knowing my restaurant, Guillaume at Bennelong, resides in one of those sails, fills me with great pride.” – Guillaume Brahimi
“An iconic place with iconi events – a melting pot of talent and creativity, never boring and always new, bridging the world and connecting people!” – Terra Reeck
“It is one of the great iconic buildings of the twentieth century, an image of great beauty that has become known throughout the world – a symbol not only of a city but of a whole country and a continent.” – Pritzker Prize Jury
“Sydney Opera House reminds me of being in a boat as a child with the wind in the sails.”
– Julia Stone
Click here to view official website of Evgeny Kissin.
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