Pianist Kirill Gerstein combines the traditions of Russian, American and Central European music making with an insatiable curiosity. These qualities and the relationships that he has developed with orchestras, conductors, instrumentalists, singers and composers have led him to explore a huge spectrum of repertoire both new and old. From Bach to Adès, Gerstein's playing is distinguished by a ferocious technique and discerning intelligence, matched with an energetic, imaginative musical presence that places him at the top of his profession.
Born in the former Soviet Union, Gerstein is an American citizen based in Berlin. His career is similarly international, with solo and concerto engagements taking him from Europe to the United States, China and Australia. Highlights of the 2021-22 season include performances of Kurtág, Beethoven, Strauss and Rachmaninov with Royal Concertgebouw and NDR Elbphilharmonie under Alan Gilbert; Mozart with Camerata Salzburg and Andrew Manze; Schumann with Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Karina Canellakis; Ravel and Schönberg with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and François-Xavier Roth; Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto in the urtext version with the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra and Sebastian Weigle; Ravel’s Piano Concertos with City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra; Brahms’ First and Second Piano Concertos with Helsinki Philharmonic, and all five Beethoven Piano Concertos over two nights with the Grand Rapids (Mich.) Symphony.
In recital, Gerstein will be heard at London’s Wigmore Hall, with his student Mao Fujita on tour in Japan, with Garrick Ohlsson on tour across America and at Budapest’s Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music and the Kölner Philharmonie with the Hagen Quartet.
Over the last year, Gerstein’s decade-long relationship with Thomas Adès came to fruition with the release of two recordings: the world premiere of Adès’ Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, written expressly for Gerstein and released by Deutsche Grammophon, and a compendium of Adès’ works for piano on myrios classics. Both discs garnered an impressive series of accolades, which included a 2021 International Classical Music Award, a 2020 Gramophone Award and three Grammy Award nominations. During the new season, Gerstein will give Adès’ Piano Concerto its French, Belgium and Russian premieres with the composer; its Italian premiere with Sir Antonio Pappano and Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, and the South American premiere with Thierry Fischer and the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra.
Alongside the international premieres of Adès’ Piano Concerto, Gerstein will give the Danish, Norwegian and German premieres of Thomas Larcher’s Piano Concerto, which was also commissioned especially for him. A co-commission from the Berlin, Czech and Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestras and the Vienna Konzerthaus, Gerstein gave the world premiere of Larcher’s Piano Concerto in May 2021 with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic under Karina Canellakis. In Copenhagen, he will premiere the concerto with the Danish National Symphony and Alondra de la Parra; in Bergen, with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra and Edward Gardner, and in Berlin, with the Berlin Philharmonic and Semyon Bychkov, who initiated the commission.
A longtime believer in the role of teaching in the life of a musician, Gerstein is on the faculty of Kronberg Academy and professor of piano at Berlin’s Hanns Eisler Hochschule. Under the auspices of Kronberg Academy, his series of free and open online seminars titled "Kirill Gerstein Invites" is now in its third season. Featuring conversations with leading artistic minds, the series has featured guest speakers such as Andreas Staier, Brad Melhdau, Thomas Adès, Iván Fischer, Alex Ross, Matthew Aucoin (who has also written a new work for Gerstein to be premièred in the new season), Kirill Serebrennikov, Elizabeth Wilson, Simon and Gerard McBurney, Robert Levin, Reinhard Goebel, Simon Callow. Emma Smith, Deborah Borda, Rafael Viñoly, Sir Antonio Pappano and Samuel Jay Keyser.
His latest release is a recording of Mozart four-hand piano sonatas with his mentor of 17 years, Ferenc Rados, on myrios classics. His first collaboration with that label was 10 years ago; through the partnership, he has been able to realize many thoughtfully curated projects: Strauss’ Enoch Arden with Bruno Ganz ("Wings of Desire," "Downfall"); Busoni’s monumental Piano Concerto with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Sakari Oramo; "The Gershwin Moment" with the St. Louis Symphony and David Robertson, including special appearances from vocalist Storm Large and Gerstein’s former mentor Gary Burton; Liszt’s Transcendental Études, which was picked by the New Yorker as one of 2016’s notable recordings, and Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto in the composer’s own final version from 1879. Gerstein has additionally recorded Scriabin with the Oslo Philharmonic and Vasily Petrenko for LAWO Classics and Tchaikovsky with Semyon Bychkov and the Czech Philharmonic as part of "The Tchaikovsky Project," released by Decca Classics.
Born in 1979 in Voronezh, Russia, Gerstein attended one of the country’s special music schools for gifted children and taught himself to play jazz by listening to his parents’ record collection. Following a chance encounter at age 14 with jazz legend Gary Burton in St. Petersburg, he was invited as the youngest student to attend the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he studied jazz piano in tandem with his classical piano studies. At 16, Gerstein decided to focus on classical music, completing his undergraduate and graduate degrees with Solomon Mikowsky at New York’s Manhattan School of Music, followed by further studies with Dmitri Bashkirov in Madrid and Ferenc Rados in Budapest.
Gerstein is the sixth recipient of the prestigious Gilmore Artist Award, enabling him to commission new works from Timo Andres, Chick Corea, Alexander Goehr, Oliver Knussen and Brad Mehldau; first-prize winner at the 10th Arthur Rubinstein Competition and an Avery Fisher Career Grant. In May 2021, he was awarded an honorary doctor of musical arts degree from the Manhattan School of Music.