Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos. 2, 4

Evgeny Kissin / Colin Davis / London Symphony Orchestra

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Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos. 2, 4 Review

by James Leonard

Given his lineage and earliest recordings, one might not have expected Russian pianist Evgeny Kissin to deliver such poised and polished readings of Beethoven's Second and Fourth piano concertos. This was, after all, the pianist who turned in sumptuous Rachmaninoff and expressive Shostakovich before he turned 21, and many listeners expected Kissin to grow into a more or less typical Russian super virtuoso, specializing in the highly emotional music of his countrymen. Instead, Kissin has developed into not just a super virtuoso, but a refined and eloquent pianist whose crisp attack, brilliant tone, and effortless technique are ideally suited to Beethoven's most Classical concertos. Unfortunately, Kissin seems to have left his deeper emotions back in the USSR. The outer movements of the Second Concerto have the appropriate lift and drive, but the central Adagio seems entirely too prosaic. Similarly, the Fourth's opening and closing movements are nicely self-assured, but the dramatic central Andante con moto seems oddly distracted, as if Kissin were not fully involved in the music. Accompanied with impeccable distinction by Colin Davis and the London Symphony Orchestra, this recording may be of interest to Kissin's followers, but it is unlikely to take a place in the pantheon near the greatest recordings of the past. EMI's digital sound is rich, lush, and colorful, but more than slightly muffled.

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