Evgeny Kissin recording of Prokofiev's Piano Concertos Nos. 2 and 3 available to download

CD and downloads available June 2 from EMI Classics

For his third EMI Classics release, piano superstar Evgeny Kissin turns to repertoire from his native Russia : Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Concertos Nos. 2 and 3. The performances were recorded live at the Royal Festival Hall in January 2008 with Vladimir Ashkenazy conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra. This is Kissin’s first recording of Prokofiev’s Concerto No 2.

Evgeny Kissin made his concerto debut in Russia at the age of ten and caused an international sensation three years later with the release of his recording of Chopin’s two piano concertos. Kissin proceeded to record the major concerto repertoire while still in his teenage years. In 2006, he recorded the Schumann A minor and Mozart C minor concertos for EMI Classics, followed by the Beethoven piano concertos cycle with Sir Colin Davis and the London Symphony Orchestra, released in 2008.

The collaboration between Evgeny Kissin and Vladimir Ashkenazy is an inspired choice. In addition to his renown as a conductor, Russian-born Vladimir Ashkenazy is one of the finest pianists of his generation and a champion of the Russian piano literature. He has performed all five of Prokofiev’s piano concertos on many occasions. In 2000, he was named Conductor Laureate of the Philharmonia Orchestra.

Prokofiev composed his second piano concerto in 1912-13, when he was still a student at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, yet he already had a reputation in both St. Petersburg and Moscow as a brilliant pianist and composer. He had begun playing the piano and composing before he was six and had composed an opera by the age of nine. At 13, Prokofiev enrolled at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, where he studied under Rimsky-Korsakov, Liadov, and Tcherepnin. One of his teachers, the composer Nicolas Miaskovsky, described Prokofiev’s second piano concerto as, “very fresh and interesting, and in a more intimate vein than the first, but also more difficult. … There are wonderful bits, quite novel and most intriguing.” But, at its debut in 1913, performed by the composer at Pavlovsk, a resort town near St. Petersburg , the audience appeared startled and reacted strongly. Some walked out of the hall. The original score was subsequently lost. When the composer reconstructed the concerto ten years later and performed it at the Concerts Koussevitzky in Paris in 1924, he had toned it down somewhat.

Prokofiev completed his third piano concerto in France in 1921. He had begun work on it in Russia in 1911 but had taken time out for extensive concert tours of the United States before resuming composition in 1916-17. The thematic material includes ideas for a large virtuoso concerto jotted down as early as 1911 and a theme for variations composed in 1913, as well as additional themes sketched independently. In 1921, Prokofiev reviewed the material, chose some themes for his concerto and saved others for subsequent compositions. He was the soloist in the world premiere of the concerto with the Chicago Symphony in December 1921 and reprised the work the following month in New York . A highly praised performance by the composer under Serge Koussevitzky in Paris in 1922 confirmed the concerto’s status in the 20th-century repertoire. Today, No. 3 is the most popular of Prokofiev’s five piano concertos.

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