I still remember the first time I heard Evgeny Kissin play piano. It was 1990 and I was in my car, listening to a NYC classical station. Only I wasn’t just listening; I was mesmerized, lost in a rendition of Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 that was beyond any I had ever heard previously. The DJ identified the pianist as Evgeny Kissin, performing in Moscow in 1984, when he was only 12!
A few days later I saw an ad in The New York Times for his concert at Carnegie Hall, the day after Yom Kippur, and I managed to get a ticket in the Balcony, Row P, Seat 41 (my memory is not that good; I found the ticket recently).
It was the most astounding concert, to date, that I had ever attended. Kissin – who still looked like he was 12, but was, in fact, 18 – played Prokofiev, Liszt, Schumann and Chopin and I hung on every note, mesmerized by his technique and performance.
From that time, I have purchased his recordings, including the 1984 Moscow concert and the Carnegie Hall debut, and have attended a number of his concerts. I have tickets to see him again in March.
However, Kissin’s greatest performance ever may have been on Saturday evening, December 7, in Jerusalem when Minister of Internal Affairs Gideon Sa’ar, Minister of Immigration and Absorption Sofa Landver and Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky presented him with his Israel identification card.
The Moscow native, who is a British citizen as well, will not live permanently in Israel. He requested to become a citizen in order to identify as an Israeli. At a time when supporters of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) Campaign against Israel attempt to disrupt performances by Israeli musicians around the world, when Roger Waters of Pink Floyd successfully works to convince other performers such as Elvis Costello and Annie Lennox to boycott performing in Israel, Kissin’s act of solidarity is an incredibly strong expression of support (and there are many artists, including notably, Paul McCartney, Elton John, Eric Burdon and Diana Krall – Elvis Costello’s wife, by the way – who have refused to be intimidated by the strong pressure and threats of the BDS movement and performed in Israel).
Kissin, who performed a benefit concert in Israel two nights after receiving his identification card, said, “When Israel’s enemies try to disrupt concerts of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra or the Jerusalem Quartet, I want them to come and make troubles at my concerts too, because Israel’s case is my case, Israel’s enemies are my enemies and I do not want to be spared of the troubles which Israeli musicians encounter when they represent the Jewish State beyond its borders.”