By Lawrence Budmen

There are pianists and there are magicians of the keyboard. Evgeny Kissin belongs in the latter category. From the age of twelve, this Russian dynamo has exhibited a brand of virtuosity and musicianship that is in a class of its own. Now in his late thirties, Kissin gave a powerhouse recital to conclude the Concert Associationís season on May 7 at the Carnival Centerís Knight Concert Hall.

Kissinís combination of fearless speed, accuracy, poetic coloration, and intellectual rigor are what musical legends are all about. (Pianistically, Horowitz and Richter come to mind.) His music making is combustible. 

Opening with Schubertís lovely Sonata No.7 in E-flat Major, an unassuming work, was a keen musical ploy. There was nothing modest about Kissinís performance. His elegant phrasing and singing tone were dazzling. His old fashioned, liberal use of rubato endowed the music with character and individuality. 

Kissin was on fire for Beethovenís 32 Variations on an Original Theme in C minor. This famously elusive work was treated to a daredevil ride of a performance. The range of Kissinís awesome performance spanned the most ethereal ruminations to power pounding, heaven storming pronouncements (often at lightning speed). Every inner voice of the instrumental texture was totally transparent. Despite the pianistís rapid fire tempo and projection, the music was never a mere blur of notes. Beethovenís daunting work has rarely emerged so monumental and path breaking.

Six Brahms pianistic vignettes were the essence of full bloodied romanticism, passionately stated by Kissin. Under this pianistís fingers, the concluding Intermezzo in E-flat minor sounded surprisingly modern and harmonically ambiguous. 

Chopinís thrice familiar Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise Brilliante emerged new and freshly minted. Kissinís remarkable rhythmic dexterity and agility gave the music a volcanic edge that was exciting. He also brought real personality to every bar. Here was Chopin playing in the grand manner.

In response to the audienceís repeated standing ovations, Kissin offered a series of salon pieces as encores. Lisztís Liebestraum was bold and fiery. A Brahms waltz had the delicacy of finely chiseled crystal. Chopinís Minute Waltz and Waltz in C-sharp minor were buoyant yet aristocratic. To hear these bon-bons in the Kissin manner was to experience the music anew. Horowitzís Carmen Fantasia, the ultimate finger breaker, was viscerally charged, a cascade of keyboard fireworks in over drive. No one has played this showpiece like this since the master himself.

Evgeny Kissin is a great artist. His dazzling Miami concert was the perfect exclamation point to conclude the Concert Associationís first season at the Carnival Center.

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