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Russia: Grammy Tops Pianist's Prodigious Career

  • Claire Bigg

http://gdb.rferl.org/EA5B2506-AFB3-4D35-AB34-63DD8033EE2F_w203.jpg --> http://gdb.rferl.org/EA5B2506-AFB3-4D35-AB34-63DD8033EE2F_mw800_mh600.jpg Kissin performing in Lucerne, Switzerland, in 2004 (epa) Russian pianist Yevgeny Kissin won a Grammy award for the best instrumental soloist performance without orchestra at the 48th annual Grammy Awards ceremony, held on 8 February in Los Angeles. Kissin stunned the world as a child with his brilliant performance of the two Chopin piano concertos. Since then, he has grown into one the most famous pianists alive and continues to play to sold-out audiences around the world.


MOSCOW, 10 February 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Yevgeny Kissin, 34, has won numerous prizes and tributes -- including Grammy nominations -- but this is the first time he has received a prestigious Grammy award.

He was awarded for his 2005 recording of works by the Russian-born composers Aleksandr Scriabin, Nikolai Medtner, and Igor Stravinsky.

Early Gift

Kissin has been a familiar face on the international concert circuit for the past two decades.

Born in Moscow in 1971, he displayed a very early gift for music. When he was only 11 months old, he famously sang a Bach tune that his older sister practiced on the family piano. At the age of two he began playing by ear and improvising at the piano.

Kissin shot to fame in 1984 when, at the age of 12, he delivered a dazzling performance of Chopin's two piano concertos at the Moscow Conservatory. Virtually unknown until that evening, Kissin was immediately hailed as a piano prodigy.

Dmitry Bashkirov, a world-renowned Russian pianist and piano professor, says this performance remains one of the brightest moments of his life.

"While he performed, I had the impression that every single musical phrase he played was a divine revelation, as though an angel had come to him and inspired him with such a pronunciation and such an understanding of music," Bashkirov said.

Bashkirov played a key role in this early success. Kissin's piano teacher, Anna Kantor -- who has remained his only teacher -- brought the young pianist to Bashkirov for an audition with the hope that he would help launch his career.

The Big Stage

Bashkirov immediately fell under the spell and arranged for Kissin to perform the Chopin concertos in St Petersburg. The concert was a resounding success, and Kissin was soon invited to play the same program at the Moscow Conservatory.

Vasily Yermakov teaches piano at Moscow's Central Music School, which is attached to the Moscow Conservatory.

Yermakov did not get a chance to attend the legendary 1984 concert, but he heard Kissin perform as a young teenager on a number of occasions. Kissin, he says, displayed a phenomenal maturity of playing.

"It was not child-like," Yermakov said. "It was serious, manly, very masterful, there was no infantilism in this performance. I heard later performances, still when he was a young boy, and they were also very inspired and artistic. He was a rising star."

Invitations from across the world soon began to shower upon the young prodigy.

Kissin has been nominated for a Grammy before, but has not won until this year (ITAR-TASS)

Kissin first performed outside Russia in Eastern Europe in 1985, and toured Japan a year later. In 1987, he made his Western European debut at the Berlin Festival, and in 1988 he toured Europe with the acclaimed Russian conductor Vladimir Spivakov.

In December 1988, he performed with the celebrated conductor Herbert von Karajan in Berlin and made his North American debut in September 1990 at the New York Philharmonic. The following week, he performed at the prestigious Carnegie Hall.

Among other works, he performed "Widmung," a work composed by Robert Schumann and arranged by Franz Liszt.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Kissin and his family emigrated to the United States.

Kissin went on amassing prizes and breaking records. In 1997, he became the first pianist to give a solo piano recital at the prestigious BBC Proms at Royal Albert Hall in London and, in 1995, became the youngest-ever "MusicalAmerica's Instrumentalist of the Year."

Accomplished Artist


Today, Kissin lives both in New York and London. He has developed a rock-solid technique and grown into one of the world's most virtuosic pianist.

And despite having performed on stage for more than 20 years, his concerts are consistently sold out.

Some critics say Kissin's playing has lost some of its vitality and boldness over the years, but Bashkirov dismisses such criticism.

"Now he is a great virtuoso," Bashkirov said. "An artist of great standing, a fascinating artist who is always successful, not only because he is a big name but because he does everything in an absolutely sincere manner -- and this sincerity, his devotion to music, combined with his skill, always makes an impression both on the wide audience and on professionals."

Bashkirov says it is still too early to determine what contribution Kissin has made to piano, and what his legacy will be.

What one can say with certainty is that Kissin has entered history as one of the most precociously gifted pianists the world has ever seen.

At The Keyboard

Kissin at a Moscow concert in 2002 (TASS)

ENJOY THE MUSIC: "Twenty years [after his debut], it is widely agreed that the promise of youth has blossomed into rare instrumental genius, with frequent comparisons to [Vladimir] Horowitz. Kissin's technical control of the piano is complete and utterly natural, and so it is just a matter of what he wishes to make of it. His manner is powerful, delicate, texturally intricate, poetic and intellectually direct." -- "The Philadelphia City Paper"

Click below to hear short excerpts from some of Yevgeny Kissin's greatest recordings.

Listen: Real Audio Kissin performing Chopin's "Concerto No. 1" in 1984 Windows Media

Listen: Real Audio Kissin performing "Widmung" Windows Media

Listen: Real Audio Kissin performing Sergei Prokofiev's " Piano Concerto No. 3" in Moscow in 1985 Windows Media

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    Claire Bigg

    Claire Bigg covers Russia, Ukraine, and the post-Soviet world, with a focus on human rights, civil society, and social issues. Send story tips to BiggC@rferl.org​


     

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