Yevgeny Kissin was playing music by forgotten Russian composers at the Kennedy Center, D.C., followed by a stretch of Yiddish poetry.
There was no yeidel-deedle-deidel charm here, limited sweetness, little light. These were anxious musical pieces and anxious poems, startlingly self-aware and sophisticated. Through both melody and verse, there ran that indelible Jewish blend of skeptical irony and pained humor. But what proved so devastating was how they (and the music especially) seemed to herald in their frightening dissonances and determined lack of satisfying resolution the destruction soon to come. The poems are shot through with an image of nature relentlessly moving on while people stumble about in the dark as death hovers over them, ever-present.
Kissin has recited Yiddish bfore, but never on the big stage.