Din and tonic

Reviewing Evgeny Kissin.
Boston Globe, May 1, 2007.

Mention of the sixth of the Brahms op. 118 pieces, the E-flat minor “Intermezzo,” was cut for space (and accidentally conflated with the fifth, which was not particularly slow): Kissin took it at a remarkably slow and improvisatory tempo, fascinatingly calling up echoes and portends of late Liszt, Debussy, and early Schoenberg—and making the force of the middle section explosive. It was his most experimental playing of the night. With that command over color and texture, Kissin could actually be one of the all-time great interpreters of the avant-garde repertoire if he wanted—imagine if he ever tackled the Ligeti Etudes or the Barraqué Sonata.

And the coughing? Seriously: I felt like I was in a foley session for The Magic Mountain movie.

Update (5/2): A reader asked about the Horowitz “Carmen Variations” that Kissin played as an encore. Horowitz tinkered with the piece throughout his career; Kissin’s performance sounded like either the 1968 Carnegie Hall version or the 1978 White House version (which are fairly similar). The first recorded version (from 1927) was shorter; a version recorded (but never released) in the 1950’s is the most elaborate. You can compare transcriptions of the various versions here.

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