Having a ball with Schumann
Evgeny Kissin | Manchester's Bridgewater Hall
Tuesday 21 March 2000
There's no mistaking Evgeny Kissin's seriousness of purpose. The way he makes his way to and from the piano, the unsmiling manner in which he bows to the audience on all sides, and his general demeanour with its pronounced gravitas, leave no doubt that this is not a recital for the half-hearted. For Kissin makes no concessions. And on the evidence of the large, hushed audience hanging on his every note in Manchester's Bridgewater Hall, he has no need to either. The seriousness that also colours his playing reaches out to the listener too.
In the opening work, Beethoven's D minor Sonata, Op.31 No.2, as experimental a piece as any, and outstanding in its own way, Kissin brought out the novel effect of the movement's integrated passages of largo and allegro. The slight air of detachment that he wears so lightly seemed entirely appropriate in the adagio where no lack of rhythmic continuity, not even for one second, threatened its smooth delivery. It was as though we were hearing the music not just played but composed at the keyboard, before our eyes and ears.
Nowhere, surely, does Brahms's idiosyncratic piano writing throw up more of a challenge than in his Third Sonata in F minor, Op.5. Given Kissin's immaculately weighted and measured pianism, however, even the difficult, slightly clumsy passages in the first and last of the five movements became convincing, persuading the listener to share his vision of the sonata's romantic character and warmth of feeling, regardless of its often wayward shape.
It's not easy to create an appropriately fanciful atmosphere within which Schumann's Carnaval can be fully realised and appreciated. Without any exaggerated definition of the characters who people this music - the carnival characters of Pierrot and Columbine, composers including Chopin and Paganini, and some of Schumann's own close friends - Kissin gave a vivid account of the masked ball at which they appear, whirling dizzily in the dance episodes. The technically daunting rapid thumb repetitions, the finger staccato, the skipping left hand, all tripped off Kissin's hands.
And the inexhaustible imagination and inventiveness that Schumann poured into the variations that make up Carnaval - from the emphatic opening "PrÃ©ambule" to the passionate "Chiarina" (Schumann's beloved Clara) to the final menacing musical clash between the composer's friends and those who opposed them - proved the perfect vehicle for Kissin's intelligent and sensitive aristry.
Future UK recital dates: National Concert Hall, Dublin, 26 Mar Symphony Hall, Birmingham, 28 Mar Royal Festival Hall, London, 31 May; with Vladimir Ashkenhazy and Philharmonia: Birmingham 14 Apri London 15 April
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awardsTheatre
Grace DentChannel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Alan Rickman admits editing 'terrible' script with friends in Pizza Hut behind backs of writers on Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
- 2 18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
- 3 US? China? India? The 10 biggest economies in 2030 will be...
- 4 'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
- 5 Rebecca Francis accuses Ricky Gervais of using 'influence' to target female hunters after receiving barrage of death threats
Better Call Saul creator Peter Gould on the creative concerns of a prequel, season 2 and the mind-numbing realities of the small courts
Britain's Got Talent 2015: RSPCA investigating Marc Metral's miming dog after cruelty complaints
Doctor Who film will definitely happen, leaked Sony emails reveal
Glastonbury 2015 tickets: How to make sure you’re successful in Sunday's re-sale
The Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer has leaked – watch
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling