Label: WARNER CLASSICS (EMI) Catalog: 5099926453620 Format: CD
Evgeny Kissin: piano; Philharmonia Orchestra / Vladimir Ashkenazy
Prokofiev: Piano Concertos 2 & 3
Grammy Winner 2010: Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (With Orchestra)
Wholenote Discoveries - September 2009
For his third release on the EMI label super-star pianist Evgeny Kissin finds himself in convivial company with a program of Prokofiev concertos conducted by his compatriot Vladimir Ashkenazy. Prokofiev’s Second Concerto is new to Kissin’s extensive discography and will no doubt be eagerly sought out by his many fans. There is no question that his steely technique is up to the task of this technically demanding work with its crushing, heaven-storming passages, though there is poetry as well in his relatively restrained, rubato-inflected opening movement. Alas, the London-based Philharmonia Orchestra has seen better days, and Ashkenazy’s direction is, perhaps understandably as he has famously recorded all of Prokofiev’s concertos himself, exceedingly deferential to the soloist. The EMI recording balances the piano far to the fore, with unrealistic results, while excessive filtering meant to obliterate audience noises in these spliced-together concert performances create a rather dry, bass-deficient ambience. The album also features Kissin’s third recording of Prokofiev’s ever-popular Third Concerto, following previous discs dating from his earlier contracts with RCA and Deutsche Grammophon. Again, fans of the pianist may care to invest in this newer, curiously humourless version, though Kissin’s earlier Abbado-led Berlin Philharmonic DG recording features a superior orchestra and more sensitive direction. Even better, seek out the classic Martha Argerich performance with these same forces, which remains far more compelling. Daniel Foley
For his third EMI Classics release, Evgeny Kissin has turned to repertoire from his native Russia, Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Concertos Nos. 2 & 3. The performances were recorded live at the Royal Festival Hall in January 2008 with Vladimir Ashkenazy conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra. This is his first recording of Prokofiev’s Concerto No 2. Evgeny Kissin made his concerto debut in Russia at the age of ten and caused an international sensation three years later with the release of his recording of Chopin’s 2 Piano Concertos. Kissin proceeded to record the major concerto repertoire whilst still in his teenage years. In 2006 he recorded the Schumann A minor and Mozart C minor concertos for EMI Classics followed by the Beethoven Piano Concertos cycle with Sir Colin Davis and the London Symphony Orchestra, released in 2008 to popular and critical acclaim. These Prokofiev Concertos follow and there are plans to release Mozart Concertos no.20 K466 in d minor and no. 27 K595 in B flat major with the Kremerata Baltica, directed by Kissin. The collaboration between Evgeny Kissin and Vladimir Ashkenazy is an inspired choice. In addition to his renown as a conductor, Russian-born Vladimir Ashkenazy is one of the finest pianists of his generation and a champion of the Russian piano repertoire. He has performed all five of Prokofiev’s piano concertos on many occasions. In 2000, he was named Conductor Laureate of the Philharmonia Orchestra.