Evgeny Kissin, Barbican
Thursday 17 February 2011
Last year everybody who was anybody in virtuoso pianism gave us their take on Chopin.
This being Liszt’s anniversary, the same is now happening to him. We’ve already had memorable recitals, including one by Britain’s leading Lisztean Leslie Howard, who boldly went off the beaten track to bring back three Liszt pieces that had never before been performed.
Since Evgeny Kissin has not hitherto made a specialism of Liszt, his recital was bound to be revelatory, but the first piece didn’t reveal much. The “transcendental” study entitled Ricordanza came with a slow, ruminative burn, its gravely nostalgic melody delivered with immaculate precision. But this was just the warm-up for the great Sonata in B minor, a warhorse all virtuosos now feel duty-bound to ride. Kissin’s way was impressive: in his hands, this complex work cohered in a way one rarely hears; its jagged depths and oases of otherworldly calm were delineated with lucid control. But Kissin had somehow tamed it: one missed the requisite fantasy and fear, the desperate struggle. He thumped the living daylights out of his instrument, but the sound still didn’t seem big enough, didn’t resonate as it should. It needed more air.
After the interval his art took wing. Funérailles, which Liszt wrote to commemorate friends executed after the 1848-49 Hungarian uprising, began with climbing fury over a tolling bass, and climaxed in the noblest of storms. Vallee D’Obermann came clothed in majesty, and the strange trio of pieces known as Venezia e Napoli wound up with a remarkable account of its Tarantella. A tarantella should by definition be wild, but this managed to be at the outer edge of wildness and at the same time kept under miraculously silky control. If anyone still needed proof, this was a reminder that, when Kissin is at his best, there is no one to touch him. Communal ecstasy: a standing ovation: as Kissin stood there with his dreamy half-smile, a young Russian in white tux dashed out of the stalls to press a huge bouquet of roses on him. First encore: Liszt’s arrangement of Schumann’s “Widmung”, done with delicate empathy. Second encore: Liszt’s version of Schubert’s Nights in Vienna, beginning with relaxed charm and ending in filigree fireworks.
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 2 Michelle Obama highlights harsh restrictions faced by Saudi women after meeting King Salman without wearing a headscarf
- 3 Amal Clooney gives excellent answer to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
- 4 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 5 Isis publicly behead man in Syrian town square for 'insulting Allah' as he screams for help
Heavy metal producer's corpse to be mutilated by models as per his dying wish
The Jump 2015 line-up: Joey Essex, Phil Tufnell, Heather Mills and co take to the slopes
Game of Thrones season 5: Grey Worm actor Jacob Anderson is all for more male nudity – as long as it’s not him
Grumpy Roald Dahl letter warning student to 'eschew beastly adjectives' rediscovered after 35 years
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures