Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Evgeny Kissin: In the Face of Specialization

Last month, pianist Evgeny Kissin has performed a new recital in the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and the repertoire was filled with rarely performed works by composers of Jewish origin (Moyshe Milner, Alexander Veprik, Alexander Krenin, and Ernest Bloch). Afterwards, he did something that is most likely rarely done in a professional solo recital:  he recited poetry.

The poetry that he recited was in Yiddish, and Kissin recited in this language for two reasons:  the concert was partly produced by Pro Musica Hebraica, "the organization founded...to help bring Jewish music to the concert stage"; and Kissin has recently acquired an Israeli citizenship to show publicly that he was an Israeli by race. Being literally vocal about his birthright of a country that has historically been politically and religiously controversial indicates Kissin's braveness and determination concerning his heritage.

I have also mentioned above how this act was rarely done in a professional solo recital. Some performers have explained the repertoire they were to play verbally or have spoken about their political beliefs during their concerts, but those were not a part of performing itself. Kissin has stepped outside the unwritten boundary of specialization and performed a poetry recitation that was, according to the Washington Post article, performed "with the authority and linguistic assurance and expression of someone who has been reciting to crowds all his life..."

It is fortunate as well as remarkable that Kissin has performed admirably both on the piano and with speech, but others can and should do this as well. A recital is performed to show a performer's musical abilities, not merely a technical one. Although some audience members arrive at a concert hall to hear their favorite performers of their chosen instruments, but they listen, above all, for music. Perhaps it might be a good idea to sometimes broaden our area of expertise to give them more than what they expected or paid for.


Caroline Doane said...

I really love the idea of using a text, narration or word art piece along with music. There are a few contemporary double bass pieces that use text as well as music, including "Tunnels" and "Taxi"

http://vimeo.com/11168292 (11:00)


Caroline Doane said...
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