Stephen Ross Pierce | Cincinnati, OH USA | 03/26/2006
(1 out of 5 stars)
"If you feel that the faster and louder everything is played, the better, then this is the disc for you. Kissin's performance of "Pictures" exhibits some of the harshest and ugliest piano tone you will ever encounter on disc. To be frank, his sound production is revolting! Some of the trickier movements are breathtaking for their sheer virtuosity, but sadly Kissin loses all sight of what the music is actually trying to convey and portray. By comparison, Pletnev's less-than-true-to-the-text interpretation is in a different class altogether and everything that Kissin's performance is not: highly thoughtful and detailed, unbelievably colourful and imaginative and able to capture the essence of every piece within the suite. Other recommended performances include Simone Pedroni's from the Cliburn and Barry Douglas's excellent account from the Tchaikovsky competition. The Glinka-Balakirev gem finds Kissin at his most dazzling but if you are looking for a version that strips away the glitz, listen to Nakita Magaloff's wonderfully warm live performance. The Bach-Busoni is also sadly ugly, ugly, ugly!"
Brilliant, but idiosyncractic
Jeffrey K. Lurie | Cleveland OH USA | 09/21/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"As with many of the other reviewers of this disc, I have my own mental reference points for these pieces. With regard to the Bach-Busoni, however, my reference point is not Horowitz, but Emil Gilels, from the first volume of the Great Pianists series. Comparing the two recordings leads me to the conclusion that the Kissen recording is preferable. Not only is the sound quality significantly better in general, but Kissen displays lightness of touch and clarity in the various polyrhythms. I agree with the other reviewers who wished Kissen would play more Bach.
With regard to the Mussoursky, I (like your other reviewers) tend to default to Richter, although I have heard several performers play this piece. While Kissen's technique is once again formidable, he seems to have tried to delve too much into the psychology and/or setting of some of the "picture" pieces. These leads to some wonderful charcterizations, but also to some pieces that simply seem too slow. I prefer the Richter, with its more consistent pacing. This version certainly qualifies as an interesting alternative, however.
Transcendant pianism of the highest order
Elliot Richman | New Jersey, US | 04/28/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Kissin's rendering of Pictures at an Exhibition is piano playing of the highest order. Possibly it is as good as, or even exceeds, Richter's legendary 1958 Sofia recital version. The Bach-Busoni is equally excellent; Kissin evokes the tonal range of the organ as few pianists have. He is masterful."