Gerstein, 34, made one of the most impressive CSO debuts in recent memory. The scope and breadth of his training – in jazz as well as classical music — showed in both the Gershwin and the Ravel. His was no ordinary “Rhapsody in Blue,” but one infused with character and nuance, perky in its opening statement and with a sweeping, romantic “big theme.”
It was a marvel to hear and to watch Gerstein perform [Ravel], executing both melody and accompaniment with one hand and moving all over the piano, like a wizard on the keys.
Music in Cincinnati, November 30, 2013
Thursday’s audience got to hear Kirill Gerstein ride to victory in Prokofiev’s formidable Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor.
Which is not to say there was anything superficial or mindlessly slam-bang about the pianist’s performance. He treated the vanquishing of the concerto’s knuckle-busting difficulties not as an end in itself but as a means of revealing the music behind the glitter. Gerstein, winner of the prestigious Gilmore Artist Award in 2010, stressed rhapsodic sweep over spiky dynamism in the opening movement, making the long, demanding cadenza, with its massive chords and torrential passage work, feel like an extended improvisation.
So it went, through the cascading 16th-notes of the perpetual-motion Scherzo, the hard, glinting textures of the grotesque march and the darting fury of the finale. Together, Gerstein, Bychkov and the orchestra kicked up a storm of honest excitement in this finest of Prokofiev’s five piano concertos. The pianist’s tonal solidity cut through the orchestral mass without the brittle percussiveness others bring to the score. After the dust had settled and the crowd had cheered its last, Gerstein looked positively refreshed, as if he were ready to play the whole thing all over again.
The Chicago Tribune, October 25, 2013
Kirill Gerstein’s Interpretation of the Russian Composer
Among the classical music cognoscenti, Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff has a certain reputation: gushy and opulent, certainly not serious—an old-fashioned romantic who never caught up to the modernism of the 20th century. Pianist (and super-fan) Kirill Gerstein said this isn’t the composer’s fault, but that of his interpreters.
Wall Street Journal Greater New York, October 18, 2013
Perhaps the finest element of Gerstein’s performance was his sound. Clear and resonant, the pianist had no trouble making himself heard or marshaling sufficient energy. And yet he also had no trouble being delicate, as evidenced by his nuanced handling of the first movement’s fragile, shadowy passages.
An encore might have been in order following Gerstein’s performance of the final movement. After all, he’d whipped the house into a frenzy with a kind of controlled breathlessness. What’s more, on top this had already come an utterly fresh take on the slow movement: Somehow, without sacrificing lyricism or spaciousness, the pianist also found a way to introduce a welcome degree of vitality.
The Plain Dealer, September 27, 2013
Preview: Cleveland Orchestra — pianist Kirill Gerstein talks about Tchaikovsky’s first piano concerto and his scholarly approach to musical questionsSeptember 24th, 2013
What a difference one note can make. In his recent, thoroughly researched article titled Tchaikovsky’s “Wrong” Note, pianist Kirill Gerstein responds to pianist Stephen Hough’s blog post stating that Hough had made “The most exciting musical discovery of [his] life: Tchaikovsky’s wrong note finally corrected.”
Classical Cleveland, September 24, 2013
“The concerto calls for a virtuoso pianist, and had one in Kirill Gerstein, who played with both strength and sensitivity. He brought a delicate touch to bear in the work’s more contemplative moments, including his duets with principal flute Mark Sparks and principal cello Daniel Lee. When the music got bigger, he was assured and powerful, but never bombastic.
“Gerstein and Robertson have good rapport, and the pianist connected with the orchestra as well in a true collaboration.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 21, 2013