Russian Pianist Supports Ukraine – The Boston Musical Intelligencer

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Yevgeny Kissin (file photo)

In support of Ukraine amid their defensive war with Russia, Yevgeny Kissin headlined a sold-out performance at Jordan Hall last Tuesday. The afternoon did not follow the usual concert format, but rather presented the artist as a deeply committed humanist as well as a composer and pianist.

Essentially, it was a discussion about democracy and freedom, the role of the artist in (apolitical) society and finally, about the piano. The pianist remembers growing up Jewish in Russia, as a member of “its most hated minority.” He then expressed his outrage at Putin’s heinous tyranny and his manic and criminal war in Ukraine. The discussion ended with Kissin being praised in the United States as “a beacon of freedom in the world”.

When the conversation finally turned to music, Kissin dismissed the idea that there is a Russian piano school. He pointed out that his musical insight is derived from the written page. “If I want to know how to play Mozart, I look at a Mozart score. (Meaning it consults respected editions)

Opening the musical part, the Borromeo String Quartet gave the Boston debut of Kissin’s String Quartet, Op 3 in four separate sections; Adagiliberamente, Allegro worriedo, Largo dramato and Pensierosamento, mantanendo strettamente il ritmo puntato (trans.: pensively, but in a strict tempo). Stylistically, this suggests a musician who grew up in Russia, hearing the modernism of Shostakovich and Gubaidulina. Although dissonance and rhythmic drive are abundant, the work also reveals the composer’s marvelous lyricism, beautifully enriched by Borromeo’s elegant strings.

Finally, the artist presented a brief all-Chopin program consisting of the Scherzo in B flat minor, op. 31, the Polonaise in A flat major, op. 53 Heroic. The consummate master of keyboard lyricism, dynamic sound and extraordinary technique brought freshness, surprise and beauty to this music. Watching and listening to Kissin was a piano lesson for all the Conservatory students in the audience.

He achieved a big sound, an orchestral sound, using the physical power of the weight of the torso and arms. Softer dynamics were executed with delicacy and grace, as in the first triplets of the Scherzo, maintaining a relaxed and supple hand. And the beautiful A major melody, using a pure singing tone, sounded sublime.

The heroic Polonaise in A flat major, which the pianist interprets at all costs for the brave Ukrainians, again mixes power and ease. Like the Schezo, this technically difficult work has achieved tonal and technical perfection.

For an encore, “something quiet”, the intimate op. Posth. Waltz in A minor ended the inspiring afternoon.

Pianist of Arisian origin, Lucienne Davidson entered the Juilliard school at the age of nine. Since her Weill Recital Hall debut, she has performed as a soloist, chamber musician and with orchestras.
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