Pianist Kissin mesmerizes Korean audience again with four encores

Pianist Kissin mesmerizes Korean audience again with four encores

Pianist Evgeny Kissin performs during a solo recital held at the Lotte Concert Hall, Seoul, Monday. Courtesy of Lotte Foundation for Arts

By Park Ji-won

“His music reminded me of an encounter with my loved one,” Choi Eun-kyu, a violinist and classical music critic, said after the recital by Russian pianist Evgeny Kissin at the Lotte Concert Hall, Seoul, Monday. Kissin is one of the most popular concert pianists in Korea.

Indeed, the 50-year-old pianist, who has visited Korea five times since 2006, made the 1,600 audience members feel that they and his music were inseparable. As the audience’s applause continued, he had to move between the stage and backstage nine times after the planned program ended, in order to play four more pieces.

Whenever he smiled, the audience applauded louder. He asked the staff to place a big mirror backstage for him to check his appearance, but he had no time to take a look at it, as he was too busy going back and forth for the encores. The tickets for the concert were sold-out within 25 minutes, its organizer said.

Pianist Kissin mesmerizes Korean audience again with four encores

Pianist Evgeny Kissin performs during his solo recital held at Lotte Concert Hall, Seoul, Monday. Courtesy of Lotte Foundation for Arts

The virtuoso was born in Moscow in October 1971 and began to play by ear and improvise on the piano at the age of two. As a prodigy, he made his concerto debut playing Mozart’s Piano Concerto K. 466 at the age of 10, and gave his first solo recital in Moscow the next year. By the age of 12, he had performed both Chopin concertos in Russia, which made him an international star, and by age 19, he had made appearances with overseas orchestras, such as the Berlin Philharmonic and the New York Philharmonic.

While being known as a prodigy, not everyone with his talent has such a successful career. He may have sustained such success because of his endless efforts and dedication to practicing. Even for the one-day Seoul concert, due to his tight recital schedule in other countries, he started practicing on a Steinway in Korea every day for seven hours, Nov. 20 and 21, as well as for one hour Nov. 22, right after he came back from his tour of Japan.

The program was actually not filled with popular works that Korean audiences would easily recognize. But he chose to play a wide ranging classical repertoire ― from Bach and Mozart, to Beethoven and Chopin ― which requires not only technique but also mature interpretation.

Starting with Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, arranged by Tausig, he continued with Mozart’s Adagio in B minor and Beethoven’s Sonata No. 31 in A-flat major. After adjusting the piano during the intermission, he played Chopin’s “Mazurkas” and “Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise Billante Op. 22.”

“It seemed that he chose to play serious pieces in the first half of the program, and put more colorful music in the second part after the intermission to entertain people. Playing the pieces Beethoven wrote in his later days is tough without maturity, but he made it through well.” Choi said.

Pianist Kissin mesmerizes Korean audience again with four encores

Pianist Evgeny Kissin performs during a solo recital held at the Lotte Concert Hall, Seoul, Monday. Courtesy of Lotte Foundation for Arts

His playing was impeccable and he seemed to express more of himself in it, leading to a more profound interpretation.

“Russian piano techniques are famous for being powerful in hitting the keys. So it is normally difficult to maintain balance while playing. But he was perfect in terms of preciseness and keeping control in order to make the music sound balanced. He expressed himself more in the music, and had more conversations with the audience than before,” Choi added.

“His music has become more liberated than before, and he put his best energy into every sound as if this were the last concert he were to have.”

The four encores were Bach’s Chorale Prelude ― “Nun Komm Der Heiden Heiland” BWV 659, arranged by Busoni; Mozart’s Rondo In D Major K. 485; and Chopin’s Scherzo No. 2 in B-flat minor Op. 31, and Waltz No. 12 In F Minor, Op. 70, No. 2.

He will tour Europe with a similar program next year, and is also planning to hold recitals in North America.

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