Darkly handsome, astonishingly precocious and apparently fearless, the 22-year-old Russian pianist may be ready for a crossover success of Pavarottian proportions. Kissin made his American debut three years ago and his first recording three years before that; if doubts remain that he is willing and able to face down the ghost of Vladimir Horowitz in the realm of steely-fingered virtuosity, his newest recordings should dispel them.
The main pieces here make entirely different demands on a pianist. Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 (RCA Victor) overcomes sodden romanticism with hair-raising pianistics; often it seems less a true concerto than a piano dazzler with orchestral backup. Schumann's piano concerto (Sony) is an elegant work in which soloist and orchestra must court each other hand in hand. Kissin is up to both challenges.
Supported tactfully by Seiji Ozawa and the Boston Symphony on the Rachmaninoff—a live recording—Kissin cuts the schmaltz with an expansive tempo and crests the finale with a pyrotechnical brilliance that will have you roaring with the audience. Kissin's stately approach to melody perfectly suits the Schumann, a more graceful—and much recorded—work that he reinvigorates with spirited support from Carlo Maria Giulini and the Vienna Philharmonic.