Kissin in Quebecby Martin Kamela
/ June 1, 1997
On May 4 Russian pianist Evgeni
Kissin gave the penultimate recital in the Club Musical de Québec
1997-98 season. The sold-out concert took place in the 1878-seat
Salle Louis-Fréchette, a multi-purpose hall in the Grand Théâtre de
Québec complex located near Québec City's National Assembly. Salle
Louis-Fréchette is slightly larger than Montreal's Théâtre
Maisonneuve but the acoustics are simliar: somewhat dry without
serious absorption. Most of the seating is on the parterre level and
one hears well from the back seats. The good acoustics foster an
intimate atmosphere of communication crucial to the success of
piano, vocal, or chamber music recitals.
Club Musical de Québec dignitary
Mme Louise Forand-Samson (familiar as the co-director of the
Lanaudière Festival) humorously announced from the stage that Mr.
Kissin is an energetic lad who adores giving encores. On cue, Kissin
strode to centre stage, bowed without taking his eyes off the
audience, and sat down at the Steinway. Kissin opened the concert
with the relatively light Beethoven Rondos Op. 51 No. 2 and Op. 129.
The Rondo Op.129 is known as "Die Wut über den verlorenen Groschen"
("Rage over a lost penny" or "Colère pour un sou perdu") and Kissin
played it with the giddiness of a showy encore. In Schubert's
difficult, rarely played Sonata in C minor D.958 the pianist
attempted to achieve expressive intensity with abrupt dynamic
changes and sparkling fingering. Schubert balances these climactic
passages with contrasting melancholic soft sections, but Kissin
failed to effectively mark the transitions. Following the
intermission came Chopin's four Ballades. Kissin displayed a gentle
touch and an admirable limning of the melodic lines in the first
dozen or so bars of each of the four pieces. However, as in the
Schubert Sonata, virtuosity occasionally got the better of poetry.
In the middle sections of Ballade No. 1 and Ballade No. 3 he played
too fast and too strong to do justice to the music's colour and
expressive depth. Chopin's Ballade No. 2, with its sudden dynamic changes
and whirlwind passages, better suited to Kissin's turbulent manner.
By the time Kissin tackled Ballade No. 4 - the most complex piece of
the set - he seemed to have relaxed. His playing was warm, more
balanced, and greater discipline was imposed. The final Ballade was
the strongest performance of the program and the audience (which had
been attentive and respectful throughout) gave Kissin a standing
ovation. The most notable of his five encores were the Anton
Rubinstein arrangement of Beethoven's Turkish March, played with
metronomic precision and Horowitzian fury, ending on a wonderfully
understated note; the Godowsky transcription of Schubert's Moment
Musical which proved that Kissin can play, and play well, a piece
which does not have a single fortissimo; and Schumann's "Warum?"
from Fantasiestücke Op. 12 which left one wanting more of Kissin’s
Schumann. Comparing this concert with the last time I heard Kissin
[October 1991, part of the Montréal Symphony Orchestra’s late,
lamented Esso Recital series] I do not find that Kissin has
corrected the irregularities of programming and playing that I noted
earlier. Technically very accomplished yet interpretively
unpredictable, Kissin’s immense resources of power and soul have yet
to translate into the mature, adult keyboard wisdom his long-time
The Club Musical de Québec
1997-1998 season offers seven musical events. Highlights include the
Emerson String Quartet with clarinettist David Shifrin December 4.
Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel gives a recital Nov.20. Britain’s a
cappella choir, the Tallis Scholars appear April 15, 1998. Pianists
Garrick Ohlsson and Bruno Leonardo Gelber play on February 2 and
March 3, 1998 respectively. The season ends May 3 with young Russian
violinist Maxim Vengerov. All concerts start at 8 pm and are held at
the Salle Louis-Fréchette of the Grand Théâtre de Québec. Individual
tickets range from $25 to $50. No student or rush discounts. Tel:
(418)-643-8111. http://www.grandtheatre.qc.ca .