PROMS Evgeny Kissin Royal Albert Hall, London/ Radio 3

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The Independent Culture
Sceptics said you wouldn't be able to hear much in The Barn, even though Evgeny Kissin is a pianist in the grandest style. He's almost a Michael Jackson lookalike, tiny, doll-like. I expected them to swing him in on a winch, and lower him, spotlit, on to his place of execution, a platform in the middle of the Albert Hall arena a bit higher than the front stalls. It barely left Kissin room to take bows either side of the piano. The audience, filling the rest of the arena, the usual orchestra space and every other part of the hall, must have been a record size.

Instead, Kissin trotted down from the loggia stalls, and did a lot more trotting by the time he gave his seventh encore. Even so, the audience seemed more exhausted than he, still granting them the wan professional smile after two-and-three-quarter hours.

As for sound, there was no shortage from my seat towards the back stalls behind Kissin. True, the piano sounded distant - how could it not? But the revelation was how telling the vast acoustic was. It allowed Kissin to show off a fabulous range of dynamics and touch in the first movement of Haydn's last sonata, giving it a thrilling sense of the orchestral. Haydn would have been amazed, and delighted.

The rather static middle movement was not so successful. It wasn't a question of intimacy, rather of the continuity of sound, for Liszt's Liebestraum, with its artful supply of sonic upholstery and sense of travel, worked a treat. And the 12th Hungarian Rhapsody snarled, spat and roared quite undaunted by that yawning dome above and the hungry thousands around.

After the interval, Chopin's two Op 27 Nocturnes, classics of their genre, were exquisitely spun, the first developing into a tumultuous climax. They prepared the way for Chopin's epic Third Sonata, which Kissin played with sweeping panache as well as delicacy. It was momentarily disturbed when a few ignorant listeners started applauding the first movement. What's wrong with a bit of reticence or caution, even if they didn't know that it's traditional in this particular work to begin the scherzo virtually attacca? Why can't the BBC tell audiences not to clap between movements, since they tell them to turn pages quietly, or wait till the end of a song?

And while we're grousing about the insensitivity of audiences, who was that too-well-travelled man behind me who actually booed loudly after about the fifth encore? I'm told there's a country where they do it to show approval. And for that matter, in this country, a slow hand-clap once meant the opposite of what it does today. Still, there wasn't much doubt that even by Prom standards, the audience was pretty excited.

For the record, Kissin's encores were: Beethoven's "Turkish" march arranged by Anton Rubinstein; Chopin's Waltz in A flat, Op 34, No 1; Liszt's La Campanella; Schubert's Moment Musical No 3 in F minor, arranged by Godowsky; Beethoven's "Rage over a lost penny"; Chopin's Mazurka in B minor, Op 33, No 4; and Chopin's posthumously published Waltz in E minor.

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