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Brahms: Sonata in F Minor

Evgeny Kissin Audio CD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 14.99 & FREE Shipping on orders over CDN$ 25. Details
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1. Allegro Maestoso
2. Andante Espressivo
3. Scherzo: Allegro Energico
4. Intermezzo: Andante Molto
5. Finale: Allegro Moderato Ma Rubato
6. Intermezzo
7. Capriccio
8. No. 1 in G Minor
9. No. 3 in F
10. No. 2 in D Minor
11. No. 7 in F
12. No. 6 in D-Flat

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Amazon.ca

The centerpiece of this CD is Brahms' Sonata, Opus 5, which he composed when he was 20 years old. At 38 minutes, it is a grand, expansive, five-movement work, practically symphonic in its complexity and format. The first movement is severe and intense, the second a love song-lullaby, the third alternates big-boned expressivity with great lyricism, the fourth evokes great tragedy, and the finale is a masterpiece of contrapuntal writing. Kissin's virtuosity is astounding--he can thunder or whisper--and his sense of line, melody, and mood are impeccable. His joy at playing the piano and just plain music-making is something to behold. Two pieces from Op. 76 (composed 22 years after the sonata) express a folksy flavor and sentimental yearning, respectively, and the five brief Hungarian Dances (transcribed for piano by the composer from his orchestral works) are perfect encores--energetic and easy to grasp. This is a glorious disc, a must for lovers of great pianism, and another feather in Kissin's already impressive cap. --Robert Levine

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The Messiah Plays Brahms Feb. 14 2004
By A Customer
Format:Audio CD
Kissin has done it again, surprising his listeners in the most unusual places (I'm thinking of the tender passages of the Paganini Variations and the funeral march of the Chopin Sonata on earlier recordings). I, too, expected to be wowed by the Sonata on this disc, and then to enjoy the Hungarian Dances as pleasant little additions. Think again, folks. The sonata is, of course, brilliant and wonderful and more interesting than I've heard it from anyone else, but in the passion and sheer MUSIC that he finds in those old over-worked Hungarian dances, he truly brings the dead back to life. Listen to this while you're alone, because if you can recognize and respond to great piano playing, you will be jumping up and down and howling and weeping with joy.
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5.0 out of 5 stars PERHAPS THE BEST IS STILL TO COME Dec 8 2003
Format:Audio CD
The sound at the start is simply terrific. At first I couldn't remember such an impact from the opening bars of any piano piece since I heard Serkin in the Hammerklavier more than 30 years ago, and that was a live performance. The mood stayed with me through the rest of the sonata. Everything was not only right, but outstandingly right. The alternations of blazing declamation and hushed awe and unease in the first movement were balanced perfectly. The flowing lyricism of the second movement built up with just the right intensity to its climax and relapsed again as it ideally should. The swagger in the third movement was effortless and in the right sense arrogant. The Ruckblick was pensive, anxious and resigned. The finale's wide tonal contrasts were handled with an effortless command, and from first to last the monstrous technical demands of the work were met with an Olympian near-disdain.
The A minor intermezzo from the op 76 set was next, and I was struck again by the natural instinct this player has for this composer, as I had been when I heard him in the op 116 set on a disc he had done 10 years or more previously. I remembered comparing his accounts with those of Katchen in his great omnibus Brahms set, and I remembered on balance rating Kissin better. This prompted me to remind myself how Katchen handled the sonata, and that was when I got something of a shock. The recorded sound Katchen was given was good in its time, but not even distantly comparable to Kissin's with its tremendous resonant low registers. All the same, it was quite good enough for me to realise that Katchen's despatch of the opening bars, and indeed of the whole first movement, was every bit as virtuosic and commanding as Kissin's. I found the same in the scherzo, and I found the same again in the finale.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning and Dramatic Kissin Dec 5 2003
Format:Audio CD
'I wish I didn't have to play a virtuosic pieces for the sake of virtuosity. It's not that I dislike these pieces, but I am interested in other things' - Kissin
It seems Kissin has reached a crossroad. I was somewhat suprised by the way he played this sonata. It wasn't what I was expecting but it was no less Delightful. I was drooling when I poped this disc into my cd player, awaiting the euphoria brought about by kissins virtuosity. Instead I got a deep introverted interpretation that seemed to reflect kissins true personality.
I Highly recomend this disc to anyone who likes a deep passionate musical expirience. And for those of you who like the firey technique and amazing control of Kissin, this disc is for you, on account of the encores as well as the sonata. WOW!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.9 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars PERHAPS THE BEST IS STILL TO COME Dec 8 2003
By DAVID BRYSON - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
The sound at the start is simply terrific. At first I couldn't remember such an impact from the opening bars of any piano piece since I heard Serkin in the Hammerklavier more than 30 years ago, and that was a live performance. The mood stayed with me through the rest of the sonata. Everything was not only right, but outstandingly right. The alternations of blazing declamation and hushed awe and unease in the first movement were balanced perfectly. The flowing lyricism of the second movement built up with just the right intensity to its climax and relapsed again as it ideally should. The swagger in the third movement was effortless and in the right sense arrogant. The Ruckblick was pensive, anxious and resigned. The finale's wide tonal contrasts were handled with an effortless command, and from first to last the monstrous technical demands of the work were met with an Olympian near-disdain.
The A minor intermezzo from the op 76 set was next, and I was struck again by the natural instinct this player has for this composer, as I had been when I heard him in the op 116 set on a disc he had done 10 years or more previously. I remembered comparing his accounts with those of Katchen in his great omnibus Brahms set, and I remembered on balance rating Kissin better. This prompted me to remind myself how Katchen handled the sonata, and that was when I got something of a shock. The recorded sound Katchen was given was good in its time, but not even distantly comparable to Kissin's with its tremendous resonant low registers. All the same, it was quite good enough for me to realise that Katchen's despatch of the opening bars, and indeed of the whole first movement, was every bit as virtuosic and commanding as Kissin's. I found the same in the scherzo, and I found the same again in the finale. What was more, I found a marked similarity in the interpretations, and where they differed, notably at the end of the first movement where Kissin delivers a `triumphant conclusion' (Beethoven-style presumably) as specified in the liner note and Katchen gives me something I found more distinctively Brahmsian, I found myself tending to prefer Katchen. This impression was reinforced in the two slow sections. Good as Kissin is in the main andante, there is more inwardness from Katchen. Moreover to my surprise I even found Katchen more effective in some minor technical aspects, notably better definition in the trills and a more even delivery of the drumming repeated left-hand phrases in the Ruckblick.
The famous B minor capriccio is excellent, the speed fastish like Backhaus although predictably more flexible, not slowish as in Rubinstein's very striking reading. It leads in the 5 Hungarian dances, apparently favourite encores of Kissin's. These are less to my taste. Kissin changes his style of playing here, and I find him a bit too excitable. The changes of speed are right up to a point, but I have actually heard a Hungarian dance played (and introduced) by Brahms himself and it was a bit more sober than this approach. Kissin departs, I can only suppose deliberately, from his previous rhythmic finesse and pecks at the rhythm in a way I can't really get on with, particularly in the second and fourth of his selection - I heard Rattle give the former as an encore in the orchestrated version and it was another experience entirely.
This has to be a 5-star issue because the performance of the sonata is simply prodigious. The last recital disc I bought by Kissin was when he was 20 years old or less, and then I hoped and expected to find in him the special kind of individuality that I find in, say, Horowitz, Serkin, Michelangeli, Richter, Cziffra, Gould and Ogdon. Maybe I yet shall.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning and Dramatic Kissin Dec 5 2003
By Brandon Macey - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
'I wish I didn't have to play a virtuosic pieces for the sake of virtuosity. It's not that I dislike these pieces, but I am interested in other things' - Kissin
It seems Kissin has reached a crossroad. I was somewhat suprised by the way he played this sonata. It wasn't what I was expecting but it was no less Delightful. I was drooling when I poped this disc into my cd player, awaiting the euphoria brought about by kissins virtuosity. Instead I got a deep introverted interpretation that seemed to reflect kissins true personality.
I Highly recomend this disc to anyone who likes a deep passionate musical expirience. And for those of you who like the firey technique and amazing control of Kissin, this disc is for you, on account of the encores as well as the sonata. WOW!
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fulfilling. Aug. 5 2004
By Stephen G Bowden - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Evgeny Kissin is quite possibly the best child to hit the world's stage, receiving international acclaim for his performance of the chopin concertos at age 12, since Josef Hoffman at the turn of the century. I know I am with all when I say this, he has the greatest potential of a pianist alive today. Before, I have listened to a great deal of Kissin, the Rachmaninoff 2nd and 3rd concertos, Chopin ballades, scherzi, several nocturnes and other assorted pieces. All have been close, very close, to incredible. It's just that he didn't really figure out the pieces, except the Rach 2 which was as good as it gets. But on this CD. It's everything. The Sonata, first and foremost, is an absolute delight. It's practically flawless. The Opus 79 pieces are "dessert" pieces, and very well played. But the Hungarian Dances! They absolutely capture the essence of a Hungarian Dance. My teacher stresses the feeling of "ballando", you should be able to make the listener want to get up and move around and dance while you are playing. And, quite frankly, that's exactly what I did while listening to each of these. They are fantastic, purely fantastic.

Thank you, Mr. Kissin. If this CD doesn't get where you should, it will sure as heck get you about 3/4 of the way. An encore, please. I wouldn't mind hearing Brahms' concertos . . . .
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hungarian Dances & Sonata Jan. 1 2012
By NPUL - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
My favorites on this disc are the Hungarian Dances and the Sonata. Kissin inspired me to want to learn the Hungarian Dance No. 6. I think the Hungarian Dances appeal more to the general public since they are not so long and have catchy tunes. Way to go, Evgeny! Great work!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great Brahms recital and a must listen for Kissin's admirers Sept. 26 2007
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
In his lead review David Bryson says in one sentence what I feel about Kissin's performance of the Brahms F minor sonata: "Everything was not only right, but outstandingly right." Brahms produced three hugely ambitious piano sonatas when he was 19 and 20, trooping to Schumann's doorstep with them packed in his knapsack along with a letter of introduction from the famous violinist Joseph Joachim. Both Schumanns, Clara and Robert, were overjoyed with their handsome young visitor and stunned by his abilities as composer and piano virtuoso. Kissin plays the third and most popular of these sonatas (a prestigious form for the piano that essentially died out with him - the informative album notes say some interesting things about that).

The score traverses five movements in 40 min. (Kissin's timing is just under 38 min.), packing in virtually everything Brahms knew musically, from Bach to Beethoven, comprising techniques and styles he wanted to make his own. Although considered a melding of the effusive, unbounded emotions of Romanticism and the strict architecture of Classicism, for me the sonata's rhapsodic element dominates throughout, as it does for Kissin. He sweeps us along in a perfect blend of bravura technique, lyricism, and perfectly judged transitions as Brahms's landscape keeps expanding to a scope realized only by Schumann, Liszt, and Beethoven. At this point in Kissin's career - he turned thirty in 2001 when the album was made - he was still playing in a personal style that I think has changed (Bryson's headline about the best being yet to come was overly optimistic).

Therefore this Brahms recital stands out as one of Kissin's nearly perfect CDs. The sonata takes up the bulk of the 56 min. timing, with the fillers chose to illustrate where the composer's piano writing was destined to go: into short reflective pieces that first appeared in the Op. 76 set, and the Hungarian Dances, which represent the rad-and-butter popular works written for amateur musicians. Originally written for four hands, Brahms reduced the scoring to two hands by giving the left hand all the notes that one player had and the right hand all the notes assigned to the other player.

The result is a virtuoso challenge that the composer delighted in playing himself, and which Kissin uses to let out all the stops, romping through five of the dances with rowdy showmanship. They are presented in the order of no. 1, 3, 2, 7, and 6, omitting the one everybody knows, no. 5. As far as recorded sound goes, despite the 24/96 format, I found the piano dull and a bit clangy, recorded a bit far back. The recording level is 10 db lower than the usual for classical recordings. But the exhilaration of hearing a great pianist at his inspired best overcomes all objections - this CD is a must listen for anyone who admires Kissin.
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