Evgeny Kissin was born in Moscow in October 1971 and began to play by ear and improvise on the piano at the age of two. At six years old, he entered a special school for gifted children, the Moscow Gnessin School of Music, where he was a student of Anna Pavlovna Kantor, who has remained his only teacher. At the age of ten, he made his concerto debut playing Mozart’s Piano Concerto K. 466 and gave his first solo recital in Moscow one year later. He came to international attention in March 1984 when, at the age of twelve, he performed Chopin’s Piano Concertos 1 and 2 in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory with the Moscow State Philharmonic under Dmitri Kitaenko. This concert was recorded live by Melodia, and a two-LP album was released the following year. During the next two years, several Kissin performances in Moscow were recorded live and five more LPs were released by Melodia.
Kissin’s first appearances outside Russia were in 1985 in Eastern Europe, followed a year later by his first tour of Japan. In 1987 he made his West European debut at the Berlin Festival. In 1988 he toured Europe with the Moscow Virtuosi and Vladimir Spivakov and also made his London debut with the London Symphony Orchestra under Valery Gergiev. In December of the same year he performed with Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic in a New Year’s concert which was broadcast internationally, with the performance repeated the following year at the Salzburg Easter Festival. Audio and video recordings of the New Year’s concert were made by Deutsche Grammophon.
In 1990 Kissin made his first appearance at the BBC Promenade Concerts in London and that same year made his North American debut, performing both Chopin piano concertos with the New York Philharmonic conducted by Zubin Mehta. The following week he opened Carnegie Hall’s Centennial season with a spectacular debut recital, which was recorded live by BMG Classics.
Musical awards and tributes from around the world have been showered upon Kissin. In 1987 he received the Crystal Prize of the Osaka Symphony Hall for the best performance of the year 1986 (which was his first performance in Japan ). In 1991 he received the Musician of the Year Prize from the Chigiana Academy of Music in Siena, Italy . He was special guest at the 1992 Grammy Awards Ceremony, broadcast live to an audience estimated at over one billion, and became Musical America ’s youngest Instrumentalist of the Year in 1995. In 1997 he received the prestigious Triumph Award for his outstanding contribution to Russia’s culture, one of the highest cultural honors to be awarded in the Russian Republic , and again, the youngest-ever awardee. He was the first pianist to be invited to give a recital at the BBC Proms (1997), and, in the 2000 season, was the first concerto soloist ever to be invited to play in the Proms opening concert. In May 2001 Kissin was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music by the Manhattan School of Music. In December 2003 in Moscow, he received the Shostakovich Award, one of Russia ’s highest musical honors. In June 2005, he was awarded an Honorary Membership of the Royal Academy of Music in London . He was recently awarded the 2005 Herbert von Karajan Music Prize.
Kissin’s recordings have also received numerous awards and accolades, including the Edison Klassiek in The Netherlands and the Diapason d’Or and the Grande Prix of La Nouvelle Academie du Disque in France, as well as awards from music magazines throughout the world. In 2002 and 2006 Kissin was named Echo Klassik Soloist of the Year.
In February 2006 Kissin has won the Grammy award. He received it in the category of the Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (without Orchestra) for his recording of piano works by Scriabin, Medtner and Stravinsky.
His first studio recording, in 1988 for RCA Red Seal, was of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with Valery Gergiev and London Symphony Orchestra, and six Etudes-Tableaux, Op.39.
Among other works recorded for RCA Red Seal are two Chopin recital programmes, one with the four Ballades, Barcarolle, Berceuse, and Scherzo No. 4, Op. 54, and another with the 24 Preludes Op. 28, Sonata No. 2 and Polonaise in A- flat; Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, Brahms’ Variations on a Theme of Paganini, and Francks’s Prelude, Choral and Fugue; Schumann’s Fantasy, Op. 17 and five Etudes d’execution transcendante by Liszt; Schumann’s Kreisleriana and the Bach-Busoni Chaconne; Bach-Busoni Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C major, Glinka-Balakirev The Lark and Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition; Schumann’s Sonata No. 1 in F sharp minor and Carnaval; and an all-Brahms disc including Sonata No. 3 in F Minor and five Hungarian dances. His newest recording has been released in September 2005 includes works by Scriabin, Medtner and Stravinsky’s Movements from Pétrouchka. A recent duo recital with James Levine of works by Schubert was recorded live at Carnegie Hall May 1, 2005 (RCA Red Seal).
Other recital albums include Schubert Sonata No. 21 in B flat major and Schubert-Liszt Four Songs (BMG/RCA Victor Red Seal), Schubert Wanderer Fantasie, Brahms Seven Pieces, Op. 116, Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12 (Deutsche Grammophon) and Haydn Sonata No. 30 in A major, Sonata No. 52 in E flat major, and Schubert Sonata in A minor D784 (Sony).
Among concerto recordings are the Schumann Concerto with the Vienna Philharmonic and Giulini (Sony Classical); Beethoven Piano Concertos Nos. 2 and 5 with the Philharmonia Orchestra and Levine (Sony Classical); Prokofiev Concertos Nos. 1 and 3 with the Berlin Philharmonic and Abbado (Deutsche Grammophon) and Rachmaninoff Concerto No. 3 with the Boston Symphony and Ozawa (RCA Red Seal); Mozart Concertos Nos. 12 and 20 and Rondo in D major KV. 382, Haydn Concerto in D major, Shostakovich Concerto No. 1 with the Moscow Virtuosi and Spivakov (RCA Red Seal); Beethoven Choral Fantasy with the Berlin Philharmonic and Abbado (Deutsche Grammophon).
Christopher Nupen’s documentary film, Evgeny Kissin: The Gift of Music, was released in 2000 on video and DVD by RCA Red Seal.
Kissin’s musicality, the depth and poetic quality of his interpretations, and his extraordinary virtuosity have placed him at the forefront of the world’s new generation of young pianists. He is in demand the world over, and has appeared with many great conductors, including Abbado, Ashkenazy, Barenboim, Dohnanyi, Giulini, Levine, Maazel, Muti, Ozawa, Svetlanov and Temirkanov, as well as all the world’s major orchestras. He makes regular recital tours to the United States, Japan and throughout Europe.
During the 2007-08 season, Mr. Kissin will embark on several major recording projects for EMI Classics. He will record all five Beethoven concertos with the London Symphony Orchestra and Sir Colin Davis, Prokofiev's 2nd and 3rd concertos with Vladimir Ashkenazy and The Philharmonia Orchestra, both the Brahms piano concertos with James Levine and the Boston Symphony and Mozart piano concerti Nos 20 and 27 with the Kremerata Balitica without conductor.
"All the hall marks of his genius - and one does not use the word lightly - were on display: the rich, sonorous tone, the dazzling fingerwork and, above all, the inspired fantasy. So compelling is Kissin's pianism, so fresh his response to even the most familiar phrases, that one hangs on every note. The end of the slow movement found me gripping the armrest of my seat, mesmerized by the poetry of his reading."
The Times, 10th May 1999