Andrew Choi

Date of Award

Summer 2022

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


School of Music


This document provides a performance guide to Evgeny Kissin’s Four Piano Pieces, Opus 1. Although more musicians are becoming familiar with his compositions, there are no comprehensive scholarly resources available about this work. This document aims to provide that needed resource.

Evgeny Igorevich Kissin (b.1971) is a Russian-born internationally acclaimed pianist. He achieved stardom with a performance featuring the two piano concerti by Frederic Chopin in 1984. The event was recorded live and released as an album by RCA Victor. Since then, he has been in constant demand all over the world. Although he mainly performs, he occasionally composes as his secondary career. At present, four of his works – Four Piano Pieces, Sonata for Piano and Cello, String Quartet, and Thatatopsis for female voice and piano – are published by G. Henle Verlag.

Kissin’s Four Piano Pieces shows a variety of 20th century compositional styles such that each piece presents its own traits. “Meditation” uses chromaticism extensively and is atonal. “Dodecaphonic Tango” shows influence of the Second Viennese School, and dodecaphonic aggregations develop the piece. “Intermezzo,” only sixteen measures long, features Phrygian dominant scales. “Toccata” is a jazz-inspired virtuosic showpiece. In contrast to the other three pieces, “Toccata” has a clear sense of tonality.

Each piece presents different challenges. “Meditation” requires a good singing tone and ability to distinguish multiple layers. “Dodecaphonic Tango” is well suited for pianists with large hands. A quality performance of this piece depends on arm relaxation. “Intermezzo” features very simple writing that intermediate level pianists can play well without difficulties. However, it necessitates an expressive approach that draws interest from listeners. “Toccata” is, without a doubt, the most difficult piece among the four. Performers need to have great command of this piece, which is played at rapid speed and requires rhythmic discipline, hand coordination, and accuracy.