You Tube can be a gift-giving repository. Documentaries about *Arthur Rubinstein, Lang Lang, Horszowski, *Richter, Kissin, et al, produced and edited with sensitivity and respect for musical art, can light a path of insight like no other. (In this spirit, I eagerly await the film about Seymour Bernstein produced by Ethan Hawke)
After Seymour watched the Kissin film, he zipped off the following email to his e-list of friends, students, and colleagues:
“Friends, prepare to be mesmerized as I was. This documentary of Evgeny Kissin perhaps confirms that he’s the greatest of them all, a modern day Liszt. It’s a very long film so perhaps you should listen/watch in two segments. For me it was an out-of-body experience.”
The Gift of Music, an Allegro production, dates back to 1998 when Kissin, 26, was interviewed at home, seated at his beloved piano. In a riveting exchange, we learn about his childhood environment, where he, like “Wolfie” (Mozart) was saturated with his sister’s piano lessons and practicing. Kissin’s mother, a piano teacher, added to the cultural environment in concert with with Classical LPs, volume up. Naturally, blanketed with music from sun up to sun down, Evgeny was primed for an artistic journey.
In fact, one day Evgeny’s mother noticed her 11-month old singing the opening subject of a Bach Fugue his sister, Alla was playing. While Kissin could not yet talk, he understood, and sang in the language of music. It had implications for what he paradoxically expressed about its powers of communication as an adult: “I speak, and don’t play.”
At 2 years, 2 months, he had sat at the piano, popping out pieces by ear and improvising. In time, Evgeny composed ear-catching miniatures with charming and picturesque titles. (He sampled them in a nostalgic frame)
Kissin began his piano studies at age 6, entering the esteemed Gnessin State Musical College for Gifted Children. There, he became a student of Anna Pavlovna Kantor who remained his one and only piano teacher for 20 years. (She’s been a constant companion on concert tours and has become “part of the family,” living under one roof with Evgeny and his parents)
Interspersed with Kissin playing segments, the documentary reaches an apex of musical expression at the London PROMS debut concert where an audience of 5 thousand, claps madly for a record number of encores. It’s exhilarating!
Finally, without a doubt, The Gift of Music is a must see! And once you’re “mesmerized,” you might replay it again and and again with increased pleasure.
Bonus short interview with Kissin 13 years past the documentary production
Also recommended: Rubinstein film