CLASSICAL Evgeny Kissin Royal Festival Hall, London

There was a buzz in the hall - and it wasn't just excitement

Nearly half of Evgeny Kissin's piano recital at the Royal Festival Hall on Wednesday evening duplicated the programme of his latest CD, recorded last year. Perhaps that contributed to a sell-out, although worship of the 25-year-old phenomenon has been growing apace in this country, fuelled by earlier recordings and two previous London recitals, both remarkable.

This was not such a happy occasion. At the end of the Bach-Busoni Chaconne, pushed for volume further than a rather tinny-sounding piano could support, a high-pitched whine announced that someone had probably not adjusted their hearing-aid. It persisted all the way through Schumann's Fantasia, like a malicious experiment in aversion therapy. It's a mystery that Kissin never seemed to notice it, though he had an accident at the very beginning, which might have given him an excuse to walk off and get the problem sorted out. So far as one could judge in the circumstances, his performance was full of wonderful things, though he streamlined the jumps at the end of the middle movement so that the rhythmic detail and any sense of excitement were lost.

After the interval, an apologetic announcement was made and, fortunately, the problem didn't recur. Beethoven's "Moonlight" Sonata brought the house down, if only because the last movement was whipped into a whirlwind that would have satisfied even Liszt's cravings for explosive sonorities. But there were plenty of those to come, from Liszt himself. The piano fairly rattled at the end of "Harmonies du soir", though it survived for a pummelling, in "Wilde Jagd", as merciless as it can ever have had to bear. Even the delicate, quicksilver vision of "Feux-follets" took on a savage edge.

It would have been good if Kissin had offered some relief, some sign of subtler feeling in his encores. Instead, he played to the gallery, with Liszt's vulgarly overblown arrangement of Schumann's exquisite song, Fruhlingsnacht, then a Perpetuum mobile by Carl Maria von Weber, played much louder than the composer himself can ever have imagined, and finally, Tausig's version of Schubert's Marche militaire, with added cannon effects. As we came, somewhat stunned, out of the hall, there was a resounding retort to the whole spectacle in the form of a rave party under Waterloo arches, which sounded like a full-scale military operation.

Evgeny Kissin plays Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No 3 with the Philharmonia Orchestra / Yevgeny Svetlanov: 8pm 4 June Symphony Hall, Birmingham (0121- 212 3333) and 7.30pm 5 June Barbican Hall, London (0171-638 8891)

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