Pianist Evgeny Kissin has been seen as a major avatar of the Russian virtuoso keyboard tradition. Kissin parlayed a career as a child prodigy into international stardom.
Born on October 10, 1971, in Moscow, Kissin started playing the piano at age two. Admitted at age six to the Gnessin School of Music, an institution for gifted children in the USSR's vaunted, talent-nurturing system, Kissin studied with Anna Pavlovna Kantor. He is notable in having had only a single teacher; at times she lived and traveled with Kissin and his family. Kissin made his debut at ten with the Ulyanovsk Symphony Orchestra, playing Mozart's imposing Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466, and a year later gave a recital in Moscow. At age 12, Kissin performed the two Chopin piano concertos with the Moscow State Philharmonic, conducted by Dmitri Kitaenko; this concert was recorded live and shortly after released as Kissin's debut recording. Kissin's fame spread beyond Russia even before the fall of the Soviet Union made travel to the West easier. He played Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor, Op. 23, with the Berlin Philharmonic under Herbert von Karajan at the Berlin Festival in 1987, and toured Europe with the Moscow Virtuosi the following year, still just 17. In 1990, Kissin made his American debuts with the New York Philharmonic and in a recital at Carnegie Hall. He appeared at the Grammy awards ceremony in Los Angeles in 1992, and in 1995, he became the youngest person ever given Musical America magazine's Musician of the Year award. That was the first in a long string of awards for Kissin that has included the Russian government's prestigious Triumph Award, three Grammy awards, and the 2007 Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli Award in Italy. In 1997, Kissin became the first pianist to give a solo recital as part of the BBC Proms, before a sold-out crowd of 6,000. He has since toured Europe, North America, and Asia regularly, appearing with major orchestras and conductors such as Vladimir Ashkenazy, Valery Gergiev, and Simon Rattle, among many others. In 2002, Kissin took British citizenship, and in 2013 he added Israeli citizenship. He has championed the Israeli cause and has received an award from the Jewish Children's Museum of Brooklyn. Always a formidable virtuoso, Kissin has developed a reflective quality in his playing as his career matured. He has recorded prolifically for the RCA, Deutsche Grammophon, and EMI/Warner Classics labels, among others, generally focusing on Romantic and Russian repertory from Beethoven to Prokofiev. In addition to piano music, he has recorded spoken word albums of Yiddish and Russian poetry. Occasionally he has performed chamber music; with the Emerson Quartet he released The New York Concert, featuring music by Mozart, Fauré, Dvorák, and Shostakovich in 2019.