Schumann, Bach/Busoni, Beethoven

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Bach/Busoni,Beethoven,Schumann
LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Kreisleriana
PERFORMER: Eygeny Kissin (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 689911 2
Yevgeny Kissin may look like a marionette, but if he were a singer, he would definitely be on the opera stage. He does not bash, but he produces a sound which is deep, weighty and brilliant. He projects the opening piece of Kreisleriana as if he were Jove himself venting his rage – not quite the passionate eccentricity Schumann had in mind, perhaps, though the contrasting quiet section is delicious. Nor does the second piece begin quite ‘inwardly’ as marked, though it is very considered, and while Kissin makes the first Intermezzo dazzling, he misses Schumann’s simple joy. From the second Intermezzo alone you know it is Kissin playing because of his characteristic – and deliberate – dragging of the left hand behind the right. His constant virtue is commitment to every single note he plays, which makes the final section of this extended piece, if much larger than life, incredibly compelling.

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No pianist today (or yesterday) is more lavishly gifted than Kissin purely as a technician. For natural brilliance, perhaps, Martha Argerich compares, and it is her recording of Kreisleriana with which this new release invites comparison. Though Kissin’s recording is rich and spacious, it doesn’t make use of the microphone to produce all those half-lights and impalpable shadows that Argerich achieved. And Kissin hasn’t Argerich’s range of response to the picturesque – none of her secretive mood in the third piece, her impish glee in the fifth, nor above all, her sense of intimacy.

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And yet, on its own, very ‘public’ terms, this issue is overwhelming, with a performance of the Bach-Busoni Chaconne which, for once, bears no sign of straining the medium. Adrian Jack