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From prodigy to genius

Evgeny Kissin, by turns thunderous and oracular, tours America

Michael Church | March/April 2014

If there was ever a musician who could legitimately be called a genius, it’s Evgeny Kissin. When he played and recorded Chopin’s piano concertos in Moscow for his big coming-out at the age of 12, he put down a marker which he has lived up to impeccably. His Prokofiev is thunderous, his Beethoven oracular, his Liszt goes like the wind. With his angelic expression and wild shock of hair, he’s always attracted hosts of fans—particularly Japanese, for some reason—but stardom has not eroded the seriousness of his music-making. His apparent ease is founded on heroic amounts of practice and intellectual preparation. When asked how he chooses his repertoire, he says it’s just the music he loves.

Now 42, he has finally surmounted his painful social awkwardness, deploying droll humour allied with a provocative protectiveness towards Israel (of which he is an adoptive citizen, in tandem with British citizenship). He gives public readings of his favourite Russian-Jewish authors, and is determined to remain true to the epitaph he wrote for his own grave as a precocious child: “Here lies Evgeny Kissin, a son of the Jewish people, a servant of music.” ~ Michael Church

Evgeny Kissin tours America to Mar 24th; South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan from Mar 30th to May 4th

 

CLASSICAL AT A GLANCE

Kodo Drummers (touring Europe to Mar 31st). The legendary Japanese taiko ensemble belongs here because its extraordinary art goes way back in time, and is constantly being refined. This is its most spectacular show to date.  
Le Roi Arthus (Strasbourg Opera, Mar 14th). The enterprising Opera National du Rhin exhumes a work by Ernest Chausson which has been almost universally ignored. It was inspired by Wagner’s “Parsifal”, but bears the stamp of its French composer all the way through. Jacques Lacombe directs.  
Rodelinda (ENO, London, to Mar 15th). Glyndebourne’s recent production put this lovely Handel opera back on the map. With Richard Jones at the helm, ENO’s is bound to be very different. Rebecca Evans takes the castrato title role; the excellent Christian Curnyn is on the podium.  
Maurizio Pollini (Southbank, London, Apr 2nd). This Italian maestro has not yet divulged which Beethoven piano sonatas he will play in this rare recital, but tickets are already in short supply because his Beethoven is a white-knuckle ride.    
Under Milk Wood (Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea, Apr 3rd-5th). Dylan Thomas’s poem has inspired many reworkings, but this one, a co-production with the Montreal company Le Chien Qui Chante, sounds bold: the little town that went mad will be turned into an opera by the Welsh composer John Metcalf, with eight singers and five instrumentalists. ~ MC

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