This is the second of Brilliant's box sets devoted to Russian recordings from Evgeny Kissin. Labeled as early, these live concert performances from 1984 to 1990 carry us from the day after Kissin turned 13 (Mozart Cto. #12 K. 414) to age 18 (Mozart Cto. #20, K. 466), with most readings clustering in the range of 1985-89. Russians were well aware of the marvel in their midst; the pianist's American breakthrough occurred in 1990 when he debuted at Carnegie Hall's centennial season. No one since Richter, debuting almost thirty years before, had made such a heady entry, and Richter was past fifty when he came here (briefly, since he loathed American capitalism and the pace of life in our big cities).
DG offers a terrific bargain here that anyone who follows this celebrated pianist will want to hear.
The centerpiece of this CD is Brahms' Sonata, Opus 5, which he composed when he was 20 years old. At 38 minutes, it is a grand, expansive, five-movement work, practically symphonic in its complexity and format. Kissin's virtuosity is astounding–he can thunder or whisper–and his sense of line, melody, and mood are impeccable. His joy at playing the piano and just plain music-making is something to behold. Two pieces from Op. 76 (composed 22 years after the sonata) express a folksy flavor and sentimental yearning, respectively, and the five brief Hungarian Dances (transcribed for piano by the composer from his orchestral works) are perfect encores–energetic and easy to grasp. This is a glorious disc, a must for lovers of great pianism, and another feather in Kissin's already impressive cap.
The young Kissin was able to work wonders in Prokofiev–above all the Sixth Sonata (Kissin in Tokyo - Yevgeny Kissin). Regrettably, the mature Kissin recently delivered highly disappointing live performances of the Second and Third Concertos (Prokofiev: Piano Concertos Nos. 2 & 3), indeed, regardless of the predictable rave in the British press. This 1994 recording of the First and Third Concertos is unquestionably very good, especially the youthful First, although competition is very strong–from Graffman/Szell (Prokofiev: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 3) and Argerich/Dutoit (Prokofiev: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 3 / Bartok: Piano Concerto No. 3) in this coupling, and from the complete sets by Berman/Gutierrez/Järvi, Toradze/Gergiev and Krainev/Kitaenko.
Brahms’s two sonatas for clarinet and piano, Op 120, composed in 1894, were followed only by the four Serious Songs and a set of organ chorale preludes (some of which may have been written at earlier times). His farewell to chamber music was also his farewell gift to the clarinet. The two works recorded here were preceded by the Clarinet Trio in A minor (Op 114) and the great Clarinet Quintet in B minor (Op 115), and all four masterpieces were inspired by the playing of Richard Mühlfeld, principal clarinettist of the Meiningen Orchestra.