Arts concert review

How can musicians make their instruments sing?

Violinist Itzhak Perlman and pianist Evgeny Kissin perform pieces by Mozart, Brahms, and Beethoven

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Itzhak Perlman, violin, and Evgeny Kissin, piano, perform together in the Boston Symphony Hall.

Mozart’s Sonata No. 23 in D Major, Brahms’ Sonata No. 2 in A Major, Beethoven’s Sonata No. 9 in A Major
The Celebrity Series of Boston
Itzhak Perlman and Evgeny Kissin
Boston Symphony Hall
April 22

World-renowned instrumentalists, violinist Itzhak Perlman and pianist Evgeny Kissin, appeared together in a sold-out concert in the Boston Symphony Hall. Both musicians are easily recognizable, famous icons in the world of classical music, so this performance was highly anticipated by experts and newcomers alike. Although these pieces are often thought of as violin sonatas with piano accompaniment, this performance demonstrated that they could be the opposite.

In the opening sonata, Mozart’s Sonata No. 23, the violin was much quieter than the piano, and, unfortunately, certain phrases were harder to hear in this venue and set-up. This imbalance was especially noticeable in this piece. Regardless, each movement created beautiful images through the notes. The melodic lines were expressive with clean, precise articulations that conjured natural settings like a deep forest with birds, a hidden meadow, and even a bright spring dance party. What was particularly impressive was Kissin’s ability to create completely different voices with each of his two hands.

An even more melodic portion of the concert was during the Brahms, where the main theme was gently brought out from the instruments. The way the violin and piano both echoed throughout the hall made this experience a lot more intimate. The tune in this piece expressed a bittersweet memory, rather different from other interpretations that are more radiant. The violin, able to control volume a lot more freely than the piano, really sang out under the virtuosity and sensitivity of Itzhak Perlman. The full-bodied arpeggios from Kissin were reminiscent of waves, clean yet powerful notes that both highlighted the part and supported the melody.

The last piece on the program was the highlight of the concert, perfectly placed as a closing piece because of its showiness and more energetic mood. Beethoven’s Sonata No. 9, also known as the “Kreutzer” Sonata, is famed for its length, difficulty, and intensity. Our high expectations were not disappointed. The more aggressive nature of the piece suited the two performers and connected them better than the previous pieces, and the fast tempo showed off their technical abilities. Even amongst the busy, long movements, the duo managed to deliver many emotions to the piece, most notably in the second movement with the warm, golden tune.

The dynamics of this duo were intriguing, with Perlman usually taking a more confident playing style and Kissin a more subdued and deliberate one. This was even clearer in the two encore pieces. The first was an arrangement of Lensky’s Aria from Tchaikovsky’s opera, Eugene Onegin. Perlman, an inspiring figure and an eloquent speaker, shared a personal story about this piece, which was received with laughter and applause. The last piece to be performed was “Spanish Dance” from Mañuel de Falla’s opera La Vida Breve, an exciting, vivid piece that showed a bit more of Perlman’s flamboyant nature of playing. They said they had never practiced the piece before, but it was extremely well-interpreted.

The Celebrity Series of Boston brought together two incredibly famous instrumentalists for a night full of many emotional palettes. In a rare collaboration, Itzhak Perlman, arguably one of the best violinists alive, and Evgeny Kissin, equally esteemed as a pianist, performed pieces with different moods and showcased a lot of their musicality. Their individuality and artistry was well-received and respected of all present at this unforgettable concert, and their return to Boston will be awaited with anticipation.