Evgeny Kissin was born in Moscow in October 1971 and began to play by ear and improvise on the piano at the age of 2. At 6, he entered a special school for gifted children, the Moscow Gnessin School of Music, where he was a student of Anna Pavlovna Kantor, who has remained his only teacher. At 10, he made his concerto debut playing Mozart’s Piano Concerto, K. 466, and gave his first solo recital in Moscow a year later.
He came to international attention in March 1984 when, at the age of 12, he performed Chopin’s First and Second Piano Concertos in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory with the Moscow State Philharmonic under Dmitri Kitayenko. This concert was recorded live by Melodiya, and a two-LP album was released the following year. During the next two years, several Kissin performances in Moscow were recorded live, and five more LPs were released by Melodiya.
Kissin’s first appearances outside Russia were in 1985 in Eastern Europe, followed a year later by his first tour of Japan. In 1987, he made his West European debut at the Berlin Festival. In 1988, he toured Europe with the Moscow Virtuosi and Vladimir Spivakov and also made his London debut with the London Symphony Orchestra under Valery Gergiev. In December of the same year, he performed with Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic in a New Year’s concert that was broadcast internationally, with the performance repeated the following year at the Salzburg Easter Festival. Audio and video recordings of the New Year’s concert were made by Deutsche Grammophon.
In 1990, Kissin made his first appearance at the BBC Promenade Concerts in London, and that same year made his North American debut, performing both Chopin piano concertos with the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Zubin Mehta. The following week, he opened Carnegie Hall’s centennial season with a spectacular debut recital, which was recorded live by BMG Classics.
Musical awards and tributes from around the world have been showered upon Kissin. In 1987, he received the Crystal Prize of the Osaka Symphony Hall for the best performance of the year 1986 (which was his first performance in Japan). In 1991, he received the Musician of the Year Prize from the Chigiana Academy of Music in Siena, Italy.
He was a special guest at the 1992 Grammy Awards ceremony, broadcast live to an audience estimated at more than 1 billion, and in 1995, became Musical America's youngest Instrumentalist of the Year. In 1997, he received the prestigious Triumph Award for his outstanding contribution to Russia’s culture, one of the highest cultural honors to be awarded in the Russian Republic, and again, the youngest-ever awardee. He was the first pianist invited to give a recital at the BBC Proms (1997), and in the 2000 season, was the first concerto soloist ever invited to play in the Proms opening concert.
In May 2001, Kissin was awarded an honorary doctorate of music by the Manhattan School of Music. In December 2003 in Moscow, he received the Shostakovich Award, one of Russia’s highest musical honors. In June 2005, he was awarded an honorary membership of the Royal Academy of Music in London. He was awarded the 2005 Herbert von Karajan Music Prize. Kissin is an honorary doctor of the Hong Kong University, the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the Ben Gurion University in Beersheba, Israel.
Kissin’s recordings also have received numerous awards and accolades, having contributed significantly to the library of masterpieces recorded by the world’s greatest performers. Past awards have included the Edison Klassiek in The Netherlands, Grammy Awards and in France, the Diapason d’Or and the Grand Prix of La Nouvelle Academie du Disque.