Mogulmeister and Santa Fe Listener experience this CD so differently that it might be helpful to consider a reconciling point of view. Four-hand piano music flourished in an age when one could muster more than one pianist at a party or in a household. It invites intimacy as the two players sit in close proximity at one piano. This recording substitutes high-stakes Carnegie Hall for the salon and two nine-foot grands for the single keyboard. The result, to quote Santa Fe Listener, is a "forceful, energetic approach" where "tempos tend to be brisk." The unanimity of the two players is striking, but is less of a "big surprise" to me than it is to Santa Fe Listener because what makes it possible is a remarkably UNnuanced approach to phrasing and tempo. Which brings me to Mogulmeister.
The essence of Mogulmeister's review is less its unguarded rhetoric -- "complete disaster," "unbridgeable gap" -- than his claim that the two players are mismatched. My guess is that Mogulmeister, who saw Kissin and Levine perform, is on to something but is unable to hear this CD without remembering what it was like to be in the players' presence. When only the soundtrack of the concert is available, the contrast between Kissin and Levine is discernible but less evident; both seem committed to pushing the music forward energetically. Purchasers of this CD will probably enjoy the result, particularly in the scherzos, which are brilliant. That said, one need not search out Mogulmeister's recommended recordings to hear what is missing in the non-dance movements. The version of the Allegro D947 and the Sonata D812 recorded by a young Alfred Brendel (no flaming Romantic) and Evelyn Crochet nearly 40 years ago shows what is missing. In Crochet's hands the secundo part is both forceful AND pliant, at times quite poetic; for his part, Brendel plays Schubert's phrases as though they were written by someone who understood the human voice. True: from time to time Brendel and Crochet are very slightly off in their attacks. Nevertheless, the overall result is music that sounds lived, not just performed.
Kissin and Levine deserve kudos for bringing this music to a larger audience in the 21st century, and for playing forcefully with perfect precision. But there's quite a bit that they miss. Hence three stars.