The live recordings of Kissin’s interpretations of the Chopin concertos, released by Melodia, confirmed the musical maturity of the 12-year-old pianist and made him known outside of the Soviet Union. He made his debut in Eastern Europe in 1985, undertook a tour of Japan the following year and had his first appearance in Western Europe in 1987 at the Berlin Festival. In the summer of 1988 he played for Herbert von Karajan, who promptly invited him to appear at the upcoming New Year’s Eve concert of the Berlin Philharmonic as the soloist in Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1.
“He remains one of the most respected pianists of our time for the intensity and sensitivity of his interpretations.” The New York Times
The pianist Evgeny Kissin is one of the outstanding musicians of his generation. He is admired by audiences and critics around the world for his virtuoso and expressive playing and interpretations. At a recital at the Ruhr Piano Festival in June 2021, Kissin was awarded the 2020 Festival Prize. On this occasion, the German critic Wolfram Goertz wrote a eulogy in which he praised the “spectacular seriousness” of Kissin’s work and attested to the pianist, despite the incredibly careful preparation of his performances: “What is fascinating about his art is that it retains its immediacy deserved praise for an artist who is constantly in demand with the great international orchestras and conductors such as Vladimir Ashkenazy, Daniel Barenboim, Riccardo Muti, Seiji Ozawa and Sir Antonio Pappano.
Evgeny Kissin was born in Moscow in October 1971. Gifted with quite unusual musicality, he began playing the piano by ear and improvising shortly after his second birthday, and even before that he had been enthusiastic about the instrument. At the age of six he entered the Moscow Gnessin School, an elite institute for young musicians. There he received lessons from Anna Pavlovna Kantor, who remained his only teacher. Kissin made such rapid progress that he first performed a major work with orchestra at the age of ten: Mozart’s Piano Concerto in D minor KV 466. The following year he gave his first recital in Moscow and his international breakthrough came in March 1984 when he performed the Piano Concertos Played Chopin Nos. 1 and 2 in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory with the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Dmitri Kitayenko.
The live recordings of Kissin’s interpretations of the Chopin concertos, released by Melodia, confirmed the musical maturity of the 12-year-old pianist and made him known outside of the Soviet Union. He made his debut in Eastern Europe in 1985, undertook a tour of Japan the following year and had his first appearance in Western Europe in 1987 at the Berlin Festival. In the summer of 1988 he played for Herbert von Karajan, who promptly invited him to appear at the upcoming New Year’s Eve concert of the Berlin Philharmonic as the soloist in Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1. The recording of the performance, released by Deutsche Grammophon in 1989 just a few weeks after Karajan’s death, was immediately recognized as a milestone in the work’s recording history.
Evgeny Kissin made his debut at the BBC Proms in July 1990 and soon thereafter performed the two Chopin Concertos with the New York Philharmonic and Zubin Mehta in his first North American appearance. In September 1990 he opened Carnegie Hall’s 100th anniversary season with a sensational debut recital, the recording of which was exceptionally well received by critics and audiences alike. His discography includes a Grammy-winning album of solo works by Scriabin, Medtner and Stravinsky; Complete Beethoven Piano Concertos with the London Symphony Orchestra and Sir Colin Davis; Prokofiev’s Piano Concertos Nos. 2 and 3 with the Philharmonia Orchestra and Vladimir Ashkenazy, also a Grammy winner; and albums of solo works by Brahms, Chopin and Schumann. There are also a number of important early recordings for Deutsche Grammophon, including critically acclaimed performances with the Berlin Philharmonic, Herbert von Karajan and Claudio Abbado.
In June 2017, Kissin signed an exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon. Kicking off the renewed partnership, DG released a double album of live recordings of five Beethoven Sonatas and the 32 Variations in C minor WoO80 in August 2017. His next album was released in April 2019: The New York Concert, recorded at Carnegie Hall, documents the last of eight concerts Kissin performed with the Emerson String Quartet in early 2018; it presents works by Mozart, Fauré and Dvořák.
The pianist’s latest album is The Salzburg Recital, which features a highly unusual program of works by Berg, Chopin, Gershwin and Khrennikov, with encores by Chopin, Debussy, Mendelssohn and Kissin himself. This almost two-hour recording from the Salzburg Festival 2021 will be released in August 2022. The album is dedicated to the memory of Anna Pavlovna Kantor, who died on July 27, 2021 at the age of 98.
Following his overwhelming success at the Salzburg Festival last summer, Kissin began his 2021/22 season with recitals in Athens and Jerusalem before embarking on the same program of works by Bach, Beethoven and Chopin in Japan and South Korea presented. His world tour took him through Europe with performances in Madrid, Barcelona, Toulouse, Paris, Berlin, Vienna and Düsseldorf, followed by concerts in North America in the spring. In the USA he was also part of the all-star cast of the Concert for Ukraine at Carnegie Hall. Back in Europe, he gave three more recitals before turning to this year’s festival season: Two particular highlights in Salzburg are a solo recital (5 August 2022) and a duo recital with Sir András Schiff (9 August).
Numerous prestigious awards and prizes have been bestowed on Evgeny Kissin. He received the International Prize of the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in 1991 and was named Musical America’s youngest »Instrumentalist of the Year« in 1995. Two years later, Kissin received the Triumph Prize, one of the Russian Federation’s highest cultural awards, for his outstanding contribution to Russian culture, and became the first pianist to give a solo recital at the BBC Proms since the festival was founded in 1895. Other honors include the Shostakovich Prize (2003), honorary membership of the Royal Academy of Music in London (2005), the Herbert von Karajan Music Prize (2005), the Premio Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (2007) and the Prize of the Ruhr Piano Festival ( 2020).
He has also received honorary doctorates from the Manhattan School of Music (2001), University of Hong Kong (2009), Hebrew University of Jerusalem (2010), Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (2014) and the National Academy of Music in Bulgaria (2021). His collection of autobiographical writings, Memoirs and Reflections, was published in 2017. His compositions such as the Four Piano Pieces op. 1 or Thanatopsis op. 4 for female voice and piano have been published by Henle in recent years.