- Audio CD (Feb 25 1994)
- SPARS Code: DDD
- Number of Discs: 1
- Label: Sme
- ASIN: B000003F0R
- Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #119,427 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
|1. Fantaisie, Op. 49 In F Minor|
|2. Grande valse, Op. 42 In A-Flat|
|3. Grande valse brillante, Op. 34, No. 2 In A Minor|
|4. Grande valse brillante, Op. 34, No. 1 In A-Flat|
|5. Polonaise, Op. 44 In F-Sharp|
|6. Nocturne, Op. 32, No. 2 In A-Flat|
|7. Nocturne, Op. 27, No. 1 In C-Sharp|
|8. Nocturne, Op. 27, No. 2 In D-Flat|
|9. Scherzo No. 2, Op. 31 In B-Flat|
Facility is the natural ease with which one does something, whereas technique in pianistic terms must by the nature of the Greek word "techne" whence it stems concern the perfection of a craft or skill in accordance with a practical method. Kissin's unconventionality would be permissible if it worked to convey the music. I will list however, the three general areas in which he errs: hand position (his fingers are cramped, overcurved, arch collapsed), overall position (his back slouches at times, and he often sways and contorts his upper body), sound(because of the above two things, dynamic contrasts are difficult, and he does universally play too loud and has a lack of balance.
On to the recording in question, however, and some more specific comments. The F# minor Polonaise starting tempo is too slow and pretentious. The opening octaves are over-pedalled, thus losing their bite(listen to Horowitz's!), the rythm is a bit sodden and imprecise, and the intro loses its forcefulness owing to a holding back in dynamics where there should be forcefulness. Also he does something which a good performed should never do slow down the climactic octave passages leading to the climactic cadences of thematic section A. This sounds as though he is slowing it down in order to get every note or because it is a technical struggle. It is actually better to miss the note than to actually drastically reduce the tempo for that reason.
The Nocturnes are a bit better, probably because of the easier technique involved. Though the A-flat Major (a divine though not frequently performed piece) suffers from a an overly quick tempo, and pallid dynamic range. The middle section (so exquisitely performed by the Bolshoi Chopiniana ballet) is limp -- it is overpedalled making true portamento playing (which Chopin intended) impossible. I would remark however, that Kissin does not seem to understand touch in Chopin. Legato (as in the E-flat nocturne), and portamento (as in the etude op. 10, no. 9) are the general touches to be employed and in fact Chopin rarely marks a staccato. This is not to say that if one desires it that it cannot be used, but with taste and good judgment. The 2nd Scherzo stands out. On the chords, he releases the last one too soon, resulting in an airiness where there should be real solidity and power. This is a bit "dinky" as is lack of clarity in his descending dominant 7th arpeggios and slight slackening of the tempo in the successive lyrical section. The Fantasie has similar problems to the introduction of the Polonaise with the addition of overly bombastic crude loudness in the dramatic sections. Yes, Chopin is describing his tempestuous relationship with Georges Sand, but there must still be taste and refinement.
Also, on the first page of the fantasy we see the dotted march rythm which Kissin lengthens. I do not wish to be doctrinaire about this, but usually when this is done the rythm becomes flabby, and a lot of people do not seem to get this right
Overall, Kissin's facility is impressive. He is a natural, and his professional training has been superb, but not his artistic and technical training. I would urge people not to be impressed by his hair, which resembles that of a mad scientist in the Einstein tradition, but listen truly to what he actually produces. I think it is representative of the waning classical market that many people do not seem to be able to tell the difference between a Kissin and a Rachmaninoff, a Friedman or a Saperton. I noticed that some reviewers had compared Kissin to Ashkenazy. I think this is wrong. Ashkenazy is a great pianist with superb technical training, so I would urge people to listen to this or to the Etudes recordings of John Browning which are also very clear and technically impressive. In short don't just become interested in something because it seems new and innovative for its own sake.