Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 24; Schumann: Piano Concerto

Evgeny Kissin / Colin Davis

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Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 24; Schumann: Piano Concerto Review

by James Leonard

This 2006 coupling of Mozart's C minor Piano Concerto and Schumann's A minor Concerto marks Evgeny Kissin's EMI recording debut. The Russian Wunderkind had previously recorded for Sony, RCA, and Deutsche Grammophon, not to mention his even earlier recordings for Melodiya and Mezhdunarodnaya Kniga. What does his EMI debut tell us about Kissin's growth as an artist? Fortunately, there is an appropriate yardstick: while Kissin has not recorded Mozart's C minor Concerto before, he did record Schumann's A minor Concerto in 1993. Back then, Kissin at 22 was a recklessly romantic virtuoso with a fiery technique and a commanding interpretive personality; here at 35, he is a more controlled but no less extravagant virtuoso with an as fiery but more polished technique and an even more commanding interpretive personality. Compare his opening statements: in 1993, Kissin is rash and bold, charging ahead with undisguised fervor; in 2006, he is brave but not hasty, knowing what's coming next but not rushing into it. Contrast his cadenzas: the younger Kissin tears into it hellbound for glory, the more mature Kissin rides elegantly through it to grandeur. Which is better? Since both are extraordinary, that's impossible to say. For some, the cool and more distant sound of the 1993 Sony recording will prove less attractive than the close and more colorful sound of the 2006 EMI, while it may be the reverse for others. Perhaps the ardent Colin Davis leading the professional London Symphony Orchestra will tip the scales in favor of the later recording or possibly the magisterial Carlo Maria Giulini with the magnificent Wiener Philharmoniker will weigh them toward the earlier recording. It could be that the inclusion of a searing performance of Mozart's concerto with cadenza by Kissin himself on the EMI disc will prove more appealing then the six miscellaneous solo piano encores on the Sony disc, but those encores are liable to give the Sony disc an added advantage to listeners sated with Mozart concertos. The obvious solution, of course, is to hear both and decide for yourself.

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