LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Piano Sonata in C sharp minor, Op. 27/2 (Moonlight); Prélude, Choral et Fugue; Variations on a Theme by Paganini
PERFORMER: Evgeny Kissin (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 68910 2
This disc is worth the asking price for the Brahms Paganini Variations alone – a quite staggering feat of pianistic virtuosity. Most performers who take the theme itself up to speed at least have the decency to slow down for the two variations in multiple sixths and thirds that follow. Not Kissin, to whom such technical hurdles seem to be child’s play. But his is no mere circus act: everything is shaped and played with flawless musicality. Whether it’s a good idea to perform both books as a single entity (Brahms designed the last variation of each as an extended finale) is a moot point, but no one is likely to worry about such niceties when faced with a display of keyboard mastery on this level.
The remainder of this somewhat motley collection is not quite in the same class. Kissin is terrific in the whirlwind finale of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, but he is curiously heavy with his left hand at the start of the famous opening movement. (Beethoven exhorts the player to treat the whole piece ‘very delicately’.) The recorded sound in this work and in the César Franck is slightly less well focused than in the Brahms. Misha Donat