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Pauline Lerner

April 8, 2005 at 7:57 AM

I heard another great concert last weekend. It was a recital by Evgeny Kissin, a thirty-four year old extreme virtuoso pianist from Russia. I never knew the piano could make so many different and wonderful sounds. Since I don’t play piano, I have no idea what techniques Kissin used to get such dramatic effects in such rapid succession..

The first half of the concert consisted entirely of works by Chopin, all with dazzling pyrotechnics. The last Chopin piece he played was the A flat major Polonaise, the most dazzling of all. At times I thought the piano was going to lift up off the floor of the stage and fly away. Next he played a piece by Medtner which did not excite me. The last piece on the program was Stravinsky’s Petrouchka, a piano version of the ballet music by the same name. This music was full of moods so vivid that I could almost see them. One part of the music called up an image of a sweet, vulnerable person hiding behind the façade of a clown. Kissin brought me that image even though I didn’t know the story of the ballet. We induced Kissin to play four encores. He called out the name of each piece before he played it, but I couldn’t hear what he said. The last two pieces were very familiar. I could have hummed along, but I waited until I got home to do that. I think that one was a transcription of part of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite. The other evoked the sensation of taste, of something sweet, light, and full of air, like whipped egg whites with sugar or froth on a cappuccino. It must have been a Romance.

The audience’s reaction was tumultuous. People clapped, shouted, even whistled for a long time. I have never heard an audience respond to classical music like that. It was something I’d expect at a ball game or a rock concert , or it could have been the way audiences reacted at concerts in Europe in the distant past. It’s good to know that we have an artist who can make a crowd feel that way today.

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