Biography

Kirill Gerstein, pianist

“…Mr. Gerstein is emerging as one of the most respected pianists of his generation.”                                                                                                   — New York Times

The multifaceted pianist Kirill Gerstein has rapidly ascended into classical music’s highest ranks. With a masterful technique, discerning intelligence, and a musical curiosity that has led him to explore repertoire spanning centuries and styles, he has proven to be one of today’s most intriguing and versatile musicians. His early training and experience in jazz has contributed an important element to his interpretive style, inspiring an energetic and expressive musical personality that distinguishes his playing.

Mr. Gerstein is the sixth recipient the prestigious Gilmore Artist Award, presented every four years to an exceptional pianist who, regardless of age or nationality, possesses broad and profound musicianship and charisma and who desires and can sustain a career as a major international concert artist. Since receiving the award in 2010, Mr. Gerstein has shared his prize through the commissioning of boundary-crossing new works by Oliver Knussen, Chick Corea, Brad Mehldau, Timothy Andres and Alexander Goehr with additional commissions scheduled for future seasons. Mr. Gerstein was awarded First Prize at the 2001 Arthur Rubinstein Piano Competition in Tel Aviv, received a 2002 Gilmore Young Artist Award, and a 2010 Avery Fisher Grant.

Orchestral highlights of the 2014-15 season include performances of Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Charles Dutoit, Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Yannick Nézet-Seguin, and Bernstein’s The Age of Anxiety with the Nashville Symphony, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, and St. Louis Symphony. He makes his Minnesota Orchestra debut under Courtney Lewis, performing Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2 and Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 1. He also returns to San Francisco Symphony to perform Thomas Adès’s In Seven Days, under the baton of the composer himself. The performance will also feature live video art by Tal Rosner. In recital, he appears on Carnegie Hall’s Keyboard Virtuosos series in Zankel Hall, performing works by Bartók, Bach, and Liszt.

Additional performances include the Alabama Symphony Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, San Antonio Symphony, and Vancouver Symphony. Internationally, he plays with the Vienna Philharmonic, London’s Philharmonia and BBC Symphony Orchestras, the Gewandhaus Leipzig Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, São Paulo Symphony Orchestra, and makes chamber appearances at the Lockenhaus Festival, Salzburger Festspiele, and Schubertiade in Austria, Schloss Elmau in Germany, and the Verbier Festival in Switzerland. He is also the featured soloist in the opening concert of the Edinburgh Festival.

Last season, Mr. Gerstein made orchestral debuts with the New York Philharmonic conducted by Semyon Bychkov, and with the Cincinnati Symphony conducted by Louis Langree. In recital, he premiered a newly commissioned work by Timothy Andres, titled Old Friend. The work was featured on a program at Jordan Hall in Boston and for the Gilmore Foundation in Kalamazoo, MI.

His recent North American engagements have included performances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Montreal, Oregon, Seattle, Toronto and Vancouver symphonies among others. He was in residence at the San Antonio Symphony where he was soloist in both Brahms concertos during the orchestra’s Brahms Festival and he performed Rachmaninoff’s complete concertos in a three week residency with the Houston Symphony. He has also recently appeared at the Aspen Music Festival, Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Chicago’s Grant Park, with the Philadelphia Orchestra at Vail Valley Bravo Festival, Mann Music Center and Saratoga, with the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood, and with the Cleveland Orchestra at Blossom. In 2012, Mr. Gerstein toured with long-time chamber music partner cellist Steven Isserlis, with performances in New York, Vienna, VA, Cleveland and Chicago, and he has, in recent seasons performed in recital at the 92nd Street Y and Town Hall in New York, as well as in Boston, Cincinnati, Detroit, Miami, Vancouver, Toronto, and at Washington’s Kennedy Center.

Internationally, Kirill Gerstein has played with such prominent European orchestras as the
Czech, Munich, Rotterdam and Royal Philharmonics, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Dresden Staatskappelle, NDR Sinfonieorchester, Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, Swedish Radio Orchestra, Tonkünstler Orchestra Vienna, WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne and Zurich Tonhalle, as well as with the NHK Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo and the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra in Caracas with Gustavo Dudamel. He has also performed recitals in Paris, Prague, Hamburg, at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall and at the Liszt Academy in Budapest. He made his Salzburg Festival debut playing solo and two piano works with Andras Schiff and has also appeared at the Proms, Verbier, Lucerne and Jerusalem Chamber Music Festivals.

Mr. Gerstein’s second solo recording featuring Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition and Schumann’s Carnaval was released by Myrios Classics in June 2014. His first solo recording with works by Schumann, Liszt and Oliver Knussen, also on Myrios, was chosen by The New York Times as one of the best recordings of 2010. Mr. Gerstein also collaborated with Tabea Zimmerman on two recordings of sonatas for viola and piano by Rebecca Clarke, Henri Vieuxtemps, Brahms, Schubert and Franck for the Myrios label, released in February 2011 and November 2012. In summer 2014, he will record the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 and the Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin.

Born in 1979 in Voronezh, in southwestern Russia, Mr. Gerstein studied piano at a special music school for gifted children and while studying classical music, taught himself to play jazz by listening to his parents’ extensive record collection. After coming to the attention of vibraphonist Gary Burton, who was performing at a music festival in the Soviet Union, Mr. Gerstein came to the United States at 14 to study jazz piano as the youngest student ever to attend Boston’s Berklee College of Music. After completing his studies in three years and following his second summer at the Boston University program at Tanglewood, Mr. Gerstein turned his focus back to classical music and moved to New York City to attend the Manhattan School of Music, where he studied with Solomon Mikowsky and earned both Bachelors and Masters of Music degrees by the age of 20. He continued his studies in Madrid with Dmitri Bashkirov and in Budapest with Ferenc Rados. An American citizen since 2003, Mr. Gerstein now divides his time between the United States and Germany, where he has been a professor of piano at the Musikhochschule in Stuttgart since 2006.

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PROFILE: On the Road with Pianist Kirill Gerstein