Performance Monday, March 9, 2015 | 7:30 PM

Kirill Gerstein

Zankel Hall
An etude can be described as a brief piece that assists in the development of a performer’s technique, but in the hands of Bartók, Bach, and Liszt, it’s a sublime musical experience. Bartók conceived of Mikrokosmos as a collection of pieces for a beginning pianist, but over time it grew into a six-volume collection of 153 pieces that span a wide range of technical difficulty. Bach’s Three-Part Inventions, part of a pedagogical collection, are masterpieces of brilliant fugal writing. Liszt’s Transcendental Etudes are devilishly difficult and reflect the composer’s astounding virtuosity.


  • Kirill Gerstein, Piano


  • BARTÓK Selections from Mikrokosmos
  • BACH Three-Part Inventions, BWV 787-801
  • LISZT Transcendental Etudes

Event Duration

The printed program will last approximately two hours, including one 20-minute intermission. Please note that there will be no late-seating before intermission.


  • Kirill Gerstein

    With a masterful technique, discerning intelligence, and musical curiosity that have led him to explore repertoire that spans centuries, Kirill Gerstein has proven to be one of today's most intriguing and versatile musicians. He is the recipient of the 2010 Gilmore Artist Award and received the first prize at the 2001 Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition in Tel Aviv.

    Mr. Gerstein tours extensively as a recitalist, concert soloist, and chamber musician. Highlights of the 2014-2015 season include performances with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Nashville Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, and The Philadelphia Orchestra, among others. Internationally, Mr. Gerstein performs with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, London's Philharmonia Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and São Paulo Symphony Orchestra.

    His recordings for Myrios Classics include two recital albums: Imaginary Pictures, which pairs Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition with Schumann's Carnaval, and an album of works by Schumann, Liszt, and Oliver Knussen. Mr. Gerstein has also collaborated with violist Tabea Zimmermann on recordings of sonatas for viola and piano. His next album, to be released in March, features the world-premiere recording of a new scholarly urtext edition of Tchaikovsky's second version of his Piano Concerto No. 1 and Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin.

    Born in Russia, Mr. Gerstein studied piano at a special music school for gifted children and taught himself to play jazz by listening to his parents' extensive record collection. He studied both classical and jazz formally after moving to the US at the age of 14-first jazz piano at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, then classical piano at the Manhattan School of Music where he completed both his bachelor's degree and his master's degree by the age of 20.

    In addition to being an artist-in-residence in the piano department at Berklee College of Music, Mr. Gerstein is also a member of the piano faculty at The Boston Conservatory in the first joint appointment between the two institutions.

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Liszt's Piano Sonata in B Minor (Allegro energico)
Kirill Gerstein, Piano
Myrios Classics

At a Glance

Though it can be an arduous and time-consuming process for pianists, improving technique is essential in order to have command over the greatest repertoire written for such a multifaceted instrument. Avoiding the potential boredom of purely technique-building exercises, composers such as Bach, Liszt, and Bartók composed works that both tested the skill of the performer and provided an array of musical moods and characters.

Living in the German city of Köthen at the beginning of the 18th century, Bach penned a number of his great pedagogical works for the keyboard, including The Well-Tempered Clavierand its similarly innovative predecessors the Three-Part Inventions. Displaying extraordinary imagination, these works provided a benchmark for later figures such as Bartók, whose own chromatic inventions look back to Baroque masters through the more angular and dissonant lens of the 20th century.

Bartók’s compatriot Liszt wowed audiences across Europe during the 19th century by pushing keyboard technique to its limits. His Études d’exécution transcendantegive the listener a unique insight into his pianistic powers, at first fleet and filigree before building to a series of staggering climaxes. Combining epic dynamic power with harmonic and tonal innovations, Liszt looks forward to the music of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Program Notes
This performance is part of Keyboard Virtuosos III: Keynotes.