Thursday, November 3, 2011

Evgeny Kissin: Liszt's La Campanella

Evgeny Kissin performs Franz Liszt's "La Campanella" in London in 2007. Roughly translated as "little bell," the name that the piece is commonly known as, it forms part of six Paganini Études (Grandes études de Paganini) that Liszt composed in 1851. Its melody is drawn from the final movement of Niccolò Paganini's Violin Concerto No. 2 in B minor; in that piece, the tune was reinforced by a little hand-bell.

Evgeny Kissin, who was born in Moscow, Russia, in October 1971, is not only a wonderful and highly talented pianist who has won numerous musical awards and critical acclaim, but also a man of conscience and principles. Kissin, who is Jewish and grew up in the former Soviet Union, understands enough about the inhumanities imposed by totalitarian regimes to not take democracy and freedom lightly. Some, perhaps too many, of us born in the West do so, unaware that democracy is a gift, and as such ought to be treasured and sheltered.

Kissin understands this, and uses his fame to speak out against unfairness and injustices. Consider the interview with Maxim Reider of The Jerusalem Post (January 7, 2011) before Kissin's world tour, kicked off by a concert in Jerusalem. Here is an excerpt, which is posted on his website:
But this upcoming concert is clearly a statement. Does it mean that now you feel more identified with the Jewish people than in the past? What has caused this change?

The only thing that has changed is that I started speaking about my Jewish identity in public. I never did before. Not because I, God forbid, was ashamed of it in any way, but on the contrary, for the simple reason that it was always something extremely special for me and therefore not to be talked about in public – like love, for example (that’s, by the way, why I hate talking about music as well). But about a little over a year ago, I felt that I had to do it in order to counter the raging anti-Israel hysteria in much of the world. Since I was well known and hundreds of thousands of people all over the world were coming to my concerts and buying my recordings, I felt that I had to tell them: “If you like my art, this is who I am, who I represent and what I stand for.”
My thanks to Prof George Jochnowitz for pointing out this particular interview.