Another Kissin Triumph

kissinI went to the season-opening gala last night at Carnegie Hall. The Boston Symphony Orchestra performed, without its music director, James Levine, who is having back surgery. Maestro Daniele Gatti filled in, beautifully. There was a New York premiere, John Williams’s harp concerto “On Willows and Birches”: fine. THe main event, however, was the rendition by Evgeny Kissin (pictured) of Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2. Part of Kissin’s appeal, more than two decades after he vaulted onto world stages, is his look of Eastern European genius: the bushy hair, which he frequently smoothes back, and the boyish slimness, even at age 38 (next week). I know pianists who prefer Kissin’s younger playing — they think he’s gotten a little complacent at the keyboard. Maybe; but I’m still enraptured. His ability to skate his hands effortlessly across the keys always astonishes. And there is an unearthly balance of coldness and heat in his emotional expressiveness. Unforgettable. Kissin played two encores: Liszt’s “Valse Caprice” No. 6, and Chopin’s “Minute” Waltz.

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