Kissin at the Kennedy Center
Evgeny Kissin brought some of the old-time magic to the Kennedy Center yesterday, in the all-Liszt program he is touring with (here's John von Rhein's take on the Chicago stop). One goes to a Kissin show expecting technical brilliance, of course, but comes away with so much more. In their finest moments, his concerts let you experience the overwhelming possibilities of the instrument in a way that no one, at least that I've heard live, can.
Kissin excels most in the work of the composers who are the true keyboard animals--hence his association with Chopin, and here, Liszt. This was a program to upend the preconceived notions of the Liszt averse, skeptical and indifferent alike. Kissin demonstrates the extraordinary breadth of this music and is able to exploit its reaches like few can, from surging rage to heart melting poignance.
He kicked things off with an aching Ricordanza from the Transcendental Etudes, followed by the main event--the B Minor Sonata--a consuming voyage that brought shivers and some less than dry eyes in the house, as well as some terrifying climaxes that no doubt ensured some overtime for the Kennedy Center piano tuner. The second half-opener Funerailles perhaps lacked some of the blackest recesses to be found elsewhere, but I was sold by the end. A deeply felt Valse d'Obermann followed, and was probably a personal favorite of the afternoon. Regulation play ended with three selections from Liszt's Venezia cycle, perhaps the least ambitious Liszt on the program, profundity-wise. Kissin demonstrates however, that if you're not utterly charmed and seduced by these pieces, someone is doing it wrong.
I was going to crib the identities of the encores from someone else but the reviews are slow in coming so I'll just have to admit that I can only call the last and most obvious one off the top of my head: a tender, valedictory Liebestraum.
Update: The coverage is starting to come in...here's Thomas Huizenga (NPR)...Tim Smith...Downey (who notes the other two encores as Liszt's arrangement of Schumann's "Widmung" and a movement from his "Soirees de Vienne")