Chopin: Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor; 24 Preludes, Op. 28; Polonaise in A flat, Op. 53

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COMPOSERS: Chopin
LABELS: RCA Red Seal
WORKS: Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor; 24 Preludes, Op. 28; Polonaise in A flat, Op. 53
PERFORMER: Evgeny Kissin (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 63535 2
It’s one measure of a great pianist that he or she rivets one’s attention even in the most familiar music. Kissin’s affinity with Chopin is no secret and his pianism is probably second to none. It’s characteristic of him that the way he rivets the attention owes nothing to idiosyncrasy or didactic point-making but derives from a potent blend of analytical insight and profound musical instinct. This is playing of intense concentration, but there’s no question of eavesdropping on a musical monk. Kissin is a highly communicative dramatist whose performances, like those of Artur Rubinstein before him, are conceived, or appear to be conceived, for large spaces – Kissin, after all, has been playing to packed halls for almost as long as he can remember. Yet he never ‘plays to the gallery’, never strives for effect, as Horowitz repeatedly did (it says something that his playing should prompt such exalted comparisons). This isn’t to say, however, that he lacks an element of theatricality, but neither did Chopin. One of the most striking things about this release arises from the juxtaposition of one of Chopin’s larger-scale conceptions with 24 of his shortest. What Kissin (like Argerich on DG) continually repudiates in his playing of the famously brief Preludes is the notion that Chopin was a miniaturist. There’s something almost epic in his treatment of the slow, B minor meditation, for instance, which is out of all proportion to its brevity. And there are many similar examples. Anyone looking for an easy listen had better look elsewhere. These are performances which demand, and repay, the utmost concentration. Jeremy Siepmann

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