The Russian-American pianist Kirill Gerstein was born in Voronezh in 1979 and had his first competition success at the tender age of 11, when he took first prize at the International Bach Competition in Poland. Following a chance meeting with vibraphonist Gary Burton backstage after a concert in St Petersburg when he was just 14, Gerstein (who had taught himself the rudiments of jazz by listening to old records as a child) went to study jazz at the Berklee College of Music; he subsequently spent time studying at the Manhattan School of Music, at Tanglewood, and in Budapest and Madrid.
His concerto debut took place in 2000, when he performed Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 1 under David Zinman in Zurich; his debut solo recording (including music by Bach, Beethoven, Scriabin and Earl Wild) was released several years later on Oehms. Gerstein’s discography includes Scriabin’s Piano Concerto and Prometheus with Vasily Petrenko and the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra on LAWO, Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev concertos with James Gaffigan and the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin on Myrios (a finalist at the 2016 BBC Music Magazine Awards), Liszt’s Transcendental Studies (‘Gerstein is no mere showman but a storyteller ‘ – Gramophone), and The Gershwin Moment, which features performances with his mentor Burton and singer-songwriter Storm Large as well as Rhapsody in Blue and the Gershwin Piano Concerto.
Further Reading: Kirill Gerstein
The pianist talks to Katherine about his new album, which includes the jazz-band version of Rhapsody in Blue, the Piano Concerto in F, and song transcriptions by Earl Wild.
James listens to a stirring performance of music by Scriabin from Vasily Petrenko and the Oslo Philharmonic, released in October and chosen as one of our Top Ten Discs of the Year.