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 works by Timo Andres, Chick Corea, Alexander Goehr, Oliver Knussen, and Brad Mehldau, 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.

During the 2015-16 season, Mr. Gerstein will perform Scriabin’s Prometheus: Poem of Fire with Ricardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony and Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No. 1 with the Cleveland Orchestra. He also returns to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, as well as the Cincinnati, Colorado, Dallas, Oregon, Toronto, and Utah symphonies, and the National Arts Centre Orchestra. He opens the 92nd Street Y’s season in New York performing George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and Piano Concerto in F, both in the original jazz-band versions with Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, and returns to the venue in the spring to perform a recital program that has a dual focus on the exploration of the fantasia and the conversation between the music of Central Europe and that of his Russian heritage with works by Beethoven, Liszt, Rachmaninoff, Mussorgsky, and Balakirev. He will hold a similar residency in Houston where he will perform both with the symphony and in recital.

A significant highlight of recent seasons was the release of Mr. Gerstein’s first orchestral CD: an ECHO Klassik Award-winning world premiere recording of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in the composer’s own 1879 version of the score, and Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin led by James Gaffigan and released by Myrios Classics. Mr. Gerstein will perform this version of the concerto this season with the London Philharmonic, Iceland Symphony, and on a European tour with the Czech Philharmonic. He also tours Australia and New Zealand, makes his debut with the Royal Concertgebouw with concerts in Amsterdam and Frankfurt; and performs Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No. 2 with the Berlin Philharmonic and Semyon Bychkov, in a concert that will be streamed live on the orchestra’s Digital Concert Hall.

Recent North American engagements have included performances with the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia and Minnesota Orchestras, and the Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Detroit, Indianapolis, Montreal, St. Louis, and San Francisco symphonies, among others. He recently opened Tanglewood with the Boston Symphony, appeared at the Aspen Music Festival, Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Chicago’s Grant Park, Blossom with the Cleveland Orchestra, and with the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Bravo! Vail Valley Festival, Mann Music Center and Saratoga; and performed in recital at Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center and in Boston, Toronto, Berkeley, Vancouver, Detroit, Miami and Princeton.

Internationally, Kirill Gerstein has played with such prominent European orchestras as the Czech, Munich, Rotterdam and London Philharmonics, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Dresden Staatskappelle, Finnish Radio Orchestra, Tonkünstler Orchestra Vienna, WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne and the Zurich Tonhalle, as well as with the NHK Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo. He has performed recitals in Paris, Prague, Hamburg, London’s Wigmore Hall and 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 Lucerne and Jerusalem Chamber Music Festivals as well as at the Proms in London.

Mr. Gerstein’s recordings include Imaginary Pictures comprising Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition and Schumann’s Carnaval released by Myrios Classics in June 2014, and a solo recording with works by Schumann, Liszt and Knussen, also released by Myrios in 2010. Both recordings were chosen by The New York Times as a best recording of the year. He also collaborated with Tabea Zimmerman on two recordings of sonatas for viola and piano for Myrios, released in February 2011 and November 2012.

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, and in the U.S, he is both Artist-in-Residence at Berklee College of Music and a member of the piano and chamber music faculty at Boston Conservatory.

 

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PROFILE: On the Road with Pianist Kirill Gerstein