Kissin plays to sold-out crowd at New World Center

By David Fleshler

Evgeny Kissin performed a recital Sunday at New World Center in Miami Beach.

Evgeny Kissin’s restrained performance of the first movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata gave little hint of the recital that was to follow.

The Russian virtuoso’s performance Sunday afternoon at New World Center in Miami Beach marked the second and final event of concert promoter Judy Drucker’s reincarnated recital series, and it ended it in a blaze of keyboard fireworks, with multiple standing ovations and three encores.

Playing to a sold-out crowd, Kissin opened with Beethoven’s famous sonata, performing the first movement with a restraint that was almost staid. But this had the effect of allowing the power of the music to emerge through Beethoven’s hypnotically repeated rhythms, rather than through any overt emoting on the performer’s part. The next movement was light, elegant and polite. It was in the last movement that Kissin let loose, ripping through the rapid┬ánotes that open the movement like the virtuoso he is, displaying turn-on-a-dime dexterity in dynamic shifts and drawing grandiose sounds from the piano at the end.

Kissin is one of those pianists who seems most comfortable at high speed, and the rest of the recital gave him ample opportunity. Samuel Barber’s Piano Sonata was made for Kissin’s musical sensibilities. First performed by Vladimir Horowitz in 1950, the sonata makes huge demands on the performer’s technique.

Kissin plunged in confidently, putting across the bouncy first movement with unrestrained exuberance and humor, but also playing with great delicacy when needed, as in the light, quick treble section in the second movement. He drew great dramatic tension from the Adagio. And not only did the fiercely difficult counterpoint of the last movement seem to give him no trouble, it inspired him to a headlong, hard-driving performance that ended with a flourish and generated a mid-recital standing ovation.

Kissin has been known as a Chopin specialist for his entire career, having made his first recording at the age of 12 of the composer’s two piano concertos. He gave a gentle, songlike account of Chopin’s Nocturne in A-Flat Major. And then he played a highly personal performance of the composer’s Sonata No. 3, showing a preference for rhythmic liberties and extremes of tempo. The first movement he took slowly, taking the lyric passages in a dreamy, almost meditative way that almost stretched them to the point of shapelessness. The Scherzo was a whirlwind of virtuosity, and the last was an exciting display of pianistic and interpretive power, with a memorable episode toward the end as he boomed out the melody over a rumbling bass line.

As encores he played Chopin’s Mazurka in A Minor, Beethoven’s Six Variations, Op. 76, and—in a single nod to his Russian heritage—Prokofiev’s March from The Love for Three Oranges.

Kissin’s generosity with encores—a trait for which he is known—was exceeded by his personal generosity to his friend, Judy Drucker. As she announced at the beginning of the concert, Kissin was so glad to help Drucker restart her career that he waived his fee.

Posted in Performances


One Response to “Kissin plays to sold-out crowd at New World Center”

  1. Posted Apr 18, 2012 at 7:36 am by Donald Ewing

    A grand finale to celebrate the return of Judy Drucker. A recital to be cherished by one of the great artists of our time!

    Donald Ewing

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