Evgeny Kissin plays Mussorgsky, Bach-Busoni & Glinka
A prodigy of prodigies‚ Evgeny Kissin is now the ripe old age of 31. Awarded every honour and prize‚ he has achieved his glittering celebrity within the shortest span and for his legions of admirers he can do no wrong. He now returns to the studios after a surprising break‚ and makes it clear in BachBusoni as well as on native Russian ground that his overall command remains as intimidating as ever.
Whether it is equally musical or engaging‚ however‚ remains a moot point. I have heard more openly affectionate performances of the Glinka/Balakirev‚ and how one misses the optimum tonal weight and opulence pianists such as Gilels and Gina Bachauer brought to their BachBusoni (though matters are hardly helped by RCA’s grainy sound).
There are swings and roundabouts‚ too‚ in his account of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition where there are many moments when one is bludgeoned rather than coaxed into acceptance. You may gasp at Kissin’s pace‚ force and muscularity in ‘Limoges’ (vivo‚ yes‚ allegretto‚ no)‚ at the way ‘Gnomus’ is so ferociously characterised or at a ‘Tuileries’ of crystalline clarity and verve. But ‘Unhatched chicks’ is too fast to be sufficiently scherzino and ‘The old castle’‚ after stiffening into selfconsciousness‚ seems endlessly protracted. Such music is surely vivid enough to tell its own story without so much pointing and underlining. True‚ some will find this performance individual and compelling but others may well see it as overbearing and heavily personalised. Richter’s legendary Pictures are of another calibre and incandescence‚ and if Pogorelich invites controversy in every bar‚ he holds you fascinated and often enthralled throughout.