Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Evgeny Kissin In Recital @ Barbican Centre
The most exciting aspect of it all? I saw Evgeny Kissin in recital - a pianist whose interpretations of Chopin Nocturnes and Etudes had a huge influence on my playing when I was in high school. I've waited a long time to see him perform and there he was last night, on stage in front of me. I couldn't believe it.
I also couldn't believe how I managed to get tickets just in the nick of time: my co-worker Caroline and I were having a conversation about our favorite pianists, when I mentioned Kissin's name (actually, I had forgotten his name, squeezed my eyes shut in concentration and said to Caroline: "Not Ashkenazy, but Russian. You know. Crazy hair."). "Ooh! That's who I'm going to see tonight at the Barbican!" she said, after we both figured out I meant Kissin. I kind of half-screamed, then bought a ticket right then and there (randomly, we ended up sitting next to each other even though she bought her tickets ages ago and I had no idea where she was sitting - how crazy is that?!).
When I booked my ticket, there were still plenty of seats left. But after we arrived, they began to rapidly fill.
The first half of the program was the Schubert sonata in D Major - not one I knew at all, but it has some really pretty chorale-type sections. At four movements long, it lasted nearly 45 minutes, but he played with such proficiency and musicality, the audience was enraptured. Of course, the magical last moment (you know, the moment when the pianist lifts his hands away from the keyboard after the very last movement and there's a stunned silence as his hands pause mid-air) was ruined by a rogue clapper - that guy who claps first because he wants EVERYONE to know that HE knows the piece is over. I nearly beaned him in the head with my program.
The second half, however, was what I really went for: Scriabin. He played a sonata (No. 2 in G-sharp minor) as well as a selection of the Etudes from Opus 8 which were incredibly technically difficult and heart-wrenching. Kissin's ability to play the softest notes, yet allow them to sound all the way back of the concert hall (though the Barbican has terrific acoustics) was just magical.
After the final Scriabin etude, the applause was nearly deafening. After three curtain calls, he returned to the stage and announced, "Bach" and proceeded to play a beautiful sicilienne. After that, the audience still demanded more, so he returned with another Scriabin etude (to which someone in the audience actually hissed, "YESSSSS" very loudly - probably accompanied by a fist pump).
But the best encore was saved for last (yes, a third one!), when he played the much loved Chopin Polonaise Op. 53 in A-flat with absolute perfection and an unbelievable amount of gusto that one would have expected for the main performance.
This time, we were on our feet before his fingers barely reached the last note. Truly spectacular and unforgettable.