If I, as a human being and artist represent anything in the world, it is my Jewish people, and therefore Israel is the only state on our planet which I want to represent with my art
Evgeny Igorevich Kissin is a Russian concert pianist and composer. He became a British citizen in 2002 and an Israeli citizen in 2013. He first came to international fame as a child prodigy. He has a wide repertoire and is especially known for his interpretations of the works of the Romantic era, particularly those of Franz Schubert, Frédéric Chopin, Robert Schumann, Franz Liszt, Johannes Brahms, Sergei Rachmaninoff, and Ludwig van Beethoven. He is commonly viewed as a great successor of the Russian piano school because of the depth, lyricism and poetic quality of his interpretations.
Early life and education
Kissin was born in Moscow. Recognized as a child prodigy at age six, he began piano studies at the Gnessin Music School in Moscow. At the school he became a student of Anna Kantor, who remained his only piano teacher.
At the age of ten he made his debut performing Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor with the Ulyanovsk Symphony Orchestra. The year after that, he gave his first recital in Moscow. His talents were revealed to the international scene in 1984, at the age of twelve, when he played and recorded both of Chopin's piano concertos with the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatoire.
Kissin's first appearances outside Russia were in 1985 in Eastern Europe, followed a year later by his first tour of Japan.
In 1987, at age sixteen, he made his West European debut at the Berlin Festival as well as his United Kingdom debut, alongside conductor Valery Gergiev and violinists Maxim Vengerov and Vadim Repin, at The Lichfield Festival. In 1988 he toured Europe with the Moscow Virtuosi and Vladimir Spivakov and also made his London debut with the London Symphony Orchestra under Valery Gergiev. In December of the same year he played Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 with Herbert von Karajan at the Berlin Philharmonic's New Year's Eve Concert which was broadcast internationally, with the performance repeated the following year at the Salzburg Easter Festival. In September 1990, he made his North American debut playing Chopin's two piano concertos with the New York Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta and the first piano recital in Carnegie Hall's centennial season.
In 1997, he gave the first solo piano recital in the history of The Proms in London.
Kissin made regular recital tours of Europe, America and Asia. He has performed with nearly all the leading orchestras of the world, under such conductors as Claudio Abbado, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Daniel Barenboim, Myung-Whun Chung, Sir Colin Davis, Vladimir Fedoseyev, Valery Gergiev, Carlo Maria Giulini, Mariss Jansons, Herbert von Karajan, Dmitri Kitaenko, Jan Latham-Koenig, Emmanuel Krivine, James Levine, Sir Andrew Davis, Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta, Riccardo Muti, Seiji Ozawa, Sir Antonio Pappano, Sir Simon Rattle, Sir Georg Solti, Vladimir Spivakov, Yevgeny Svetlanov and Yuri Temirkanov. He has also performed chamber music with Martha Argerich, Mikhail Pletnev, Gidon Kremer, James Levine, Mischa Maisky, Thomas Quasthoff, Isaac Stern, Itzhak Perlman, Karita Mattila, Dmitry Hvorostovsky, Joshua Bell, Leonidas Kavakos, Natalia Gutman, Yuri Bashmet, Vladimir Spivakov, the Emerson String Quartet and others.
In addition to classical music, Kissin has given recitations of Russian and Yiddish poetry. Three CDs of Kissin's recitals from the classical and contemporary Yiddish poetry have been issued by the Forward Association.
In 2018 Kissin's autobiography was published under the title of Memoirs and Reflections. In 2019, his book of poems, short stories and translations in Yiddish was published under the title “A Yiddisher Sheygets”.
Kissin has composed numerous musical works which have been published by the Henle Verlag. His String Quartet 2016 was recorded by the Kopelman Quartet on Nimbus Records and received its UK premiere on 26 February 2019 performed by the Endellion Quartet.
In Prague on 10 March 2017, Kissin married Karina Arzumanova, a childhood friend. They live in Prague.
Awards and accolades
Many musical awards and tributes from around the world have been bestowed upon Kissin. In 1987 he received the Crystal Prize of the Osaka Symphony Hall for the best performance of the year in 1986 his first performance in Japan. In 1991 he received the Musician of the Year Prize from the Chigiana Academy of Music in Sienna, Italy. He was special guest at the 1992 Grammy Awards Ceremony, broadcast live to an audience estimated at over one billion, and became Musical America's youngest Instrumentalist of the Year in 1995. In 1997 he received the Triumph Award for his outstanding contribution to Russia's culture, one of the highest cultural honors to be awarded in the Russian Republic, and again, the youngest-ever awardee. He was the first pianist to be invited to give a recital at the BBC Proms 1997, and, in the 2000 season, was the first concerto soloist ever to be invited to play in the Proms opening concert.
In May 2001 Kissin was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music by the Manhattan School of Music. In December 2003 in Moscow, he received the Shostakovich Award, one of Russia's highest musical honors. In June 2005 he was awarded an Honorary Membership of the Royal Academy of Music in London. In March 2009 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of Hong Kong.
- 1995: Musical America, Instrumentalist of the Year
- 1997: Triumph Award, Outstanding Contribution to Russia's Culture he is the youngest awardee
- 2001: Honorary Doctorate of Music, Manhattan School of Music, New York
- 2005: Honorary Membership of the Royal Academy of Music
- 2005: Herbert von Karajan Award, Baden-Baden, Germany 2005
- 2006: Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Soloist Performance - for recordings of Sonatas by Alexander Scriabin and Nikolai Medtner and Three Movements from Pétrouchka by Igor Stravinsky
- 2007: Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli Award, Brescia, Italy
- 2009: Doctor of Letters honoris causa, The University of Hong Kong
- 2009: Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Soloists Performance with orchestra - for recordings of the Second and Third Piano Concertos of Sergei Prokofiev with the Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Vladimir Ashkenazy
- 2010: Honorary Doctorate, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
- 2010: Second Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Soloists Performance with orchestra
Evgeny Kissin: Gift of Music (1997)