Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Evgeny Kissin: Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1

Evgeny Kissin performs from the first movement from Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1 with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, at the Large Hall of Saint-Petersburg, Yuri Temirkanov conducting, on December 14, 2008. This orchestra is the oldest in Russia; Temirkanov has been its conductor since 1988.


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 under its inhumane ideology, 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 are ignorantly unaware that democracy is a gift, and as such ought to be treasured and sheltered. It can be easily lost.

Kissin understands that his position gives him opportunity to speak;  fame could be used for many things, including personal aggrandizement. Some, however, choose to speak out against unfairness and injustices.  Or, to put it another way, to speak for democracy and for the defence of a People that has been historically demonized, maligned and persecuted.  In an interview in The Jerusalem Post (January 7, 2011), he makes his reasons for doing so abundantly clear. Here is an excerpt, which is posted on Kissin's 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.”
And in times like these, such personal statements have become increasingly necessary. Bravo, Mr. Kissin.