Other Sellers on Amazon
Beethoven: Sonata, Op.27, No.2 Moonlight / Franck: Prelude, choral et fugue / Brahms: Variations on a Theme Paganini Op. 35
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
A wizard of technical control since his prodigy days, Kissin simply uses this as a foundation to probe the depths of such core repertory items as the ones on this collection. It takes a truly subtle musicality and grasp to make the endlessly recorded Moonlight sound fresh, but Kissin has the goods, pulling the carpet from underneath and making you really notice, with his unsentimental, steady tempo, how unsettling Beethoven's harmonic fluctuations are in a first movement of startling inwardness. Kissin allows the middle minuet to blossom within the sonata's larger nightscape, while he pushes the finale's cri de coeur to its heaven-storming edge. He likewise traces the late-19th-century gothic labyrinth of Franck's Prelude, Choral et Fugue with an absorbing blend of delicacy and power. But the real highlight of this disc is the gloriously brilliant intensity Kissin brings to the Brahms Paganini Variations. Listen to how he parades a dizzying, dazzling series of moods--from caressing introspection and bone-crunching, steely chords to the giddy cross-rhythms of Book II, Variation 7--to match Brahms's magnitude of invention. This is pianism of the first order. --Thomas May
Top customer reviews
First, I have to acknowledge that for a celebrated artist to tackle a very old, familiar piece is not without its dangers. If you read the music in a fairly straightforward way you'll likely be accused of being too conservative or not bringing fresh insights. (This assumes that the piece still has interpretive secrets to be discovered.) If you employ too much imagination or innovation, you're subject to being criticized for quirkiness or idiosyncrasy. Still, record producers see profit in giving the public a new artist's take on a popular piece. So what are you going to do?
The above, I would suppose is the case with the Beethoven sonata. There must be many millions who have a listening familiarity with the piece, and many, many thousands who have played the first movement, with its limited technical demands. That means a lot of people know the notes Beethoven wrote and the sounds they call for.
So, when they hear Kissin playing the very familiar melody a fraction of a beat ahead of the accompaniment, they might wonder whether he has a coordination problem. More sophisticated listeners will assume that he's emphasizing the melody by purposely sounding its notes a bit ahead of the accompaniment, a more likely analysis. But if the highest art is that which conceals itself, I'm afraid this maneuver falls somewhat short: to me at least, the lack of synchronization is not only apparent, but more than a little distracting. True, if you don't listen too carefully to the details the piece will sound fine. (Doesn't that defeat the whole purpose?)
The moral: when playing something a lot of your audience have also played you shouldn't wander too far from what the composer wrote--at least not without a damned good reason. Beethoven didn't write the melody to be ahead of the accompaniment and most basic piano players will naturally synchronize the two. Celebrated artists may take liberties in the interest of interpretive clarity and effectiveness, but those liberties should not be so great as to call attention to themselves and thus detract from the listening experience.
After the first movement the sonata sounds very good: the second movement is delightful and the third is impressively and satisfyingly dynamic. Indeed, bouquets are merited there!
The César Franck piece is well played; I've never before heard it presented so effectively.
Clearly the best performance on the disk is the Brahms Paganini Variations. Here the zestful young pianist seems in his virtuosic element as he wows us with not only the impossible-sounding stunts of Brahms' fertile imagination, but also the warmer, gentler stirrings of his heart.
Overall this CD, recorded by the 26-year-old Kissin in Freiburg (Germany) in 1997, is a fine and worthy contribution to the recorded piano literature. The 20-bit digitally recorded sound is excellent, and with a better first movement of the Beethoven sonata it would certainly rate five stars. If you don't need another copy of the Moonlight, then buy this CD for Franck and Brahms alone!