Evgeny Kissin first made his mark on the world by performing both Chopin piano concertos in one sitting...at the tender age of 12. Though he says that Bach is his favourite composer, I would say from listening to his performances that he has the best understanding of Chopin. To me, all of Kissin's Chopin performances are definitive. As a pianist, his recording are the ones I find most useful in shaping my own interpretation of pieces - because they are so beautiful. Chopin's performance on this CD, recorded live at Carnegie Hall, is astounding.
He commences with a tremendous work, the Fantasy in F minor (a piece I have performed publicly as well). His performance is amazing. The subtle dynamics and virtuosic technique create a lovely interpretation.
Next is a set of 3 Waltzes. Though I feel Kissin's interpretation of the A flat major Grand Waltz Brilliante (op. 34) could be slowed down a hair, it is unquestionably rousing, and his performances of the other two waltzes are fabulous, particularly Grand Waltz (not brilliante) in A flat major.
The Polonaise in F sharp is a fantastically difficult piece. When I first bought this recording and heard this performance, all I could say was wow. I brought it to my piano instructor, because at the time I was studying the piece, and all he could say was, "That's beautiful." It is by far the best performance of this piece that I have ever heard. It is the only performance of this piece in which I have ever felt a more beautiful voice emerge.
Following the polonaise, Kissin chose to perform 3 nocturnes. Chopin's nocturnes are known for their soaring voices, and Kissin chose 3 of the best known, particularly the 2 from Op. 27, which are considered the best. His performances here are equally exemplarly, and it is to his credit that despite the fact that he concludes with a nocturne marked Largo (forgive me if it is addagio... I haven't looked at the D flat nocturne in some time) he still gets thunderous applause.
Finally Kissin chose to conclude with Chopin's Scherzo #2 in B flat. Scherzo #2 is not all that musically significant, but, it does have a really catchy melody. In the hands of a virtuoso, it's triplets will always delight the crowd. I've heard this piece performed both live and in recordings by several greats, among them Argerich, Rubenestein, and Ashkenazy. None of them create such a, dare I say, catchy piece out of one of Chopin's works. I walk away from listening to this performance invariably humming the main theme...and judging from the crowds response, who could not wait till the last note rang out to stand on their feet and shout "Bravo!" this performance will do the same to almost anyone.
I fervently recommend this recital recording to anyone who loves Chopin, even if they have every piece on this CD already well recorded. Each piece played is played fantastically well. I can not express more how wonderful this CD is. It is a must buy.