Pianist Kirill Gerstein’s heritage combines the traditions of Russian, American, and Central European music-making with an insatiable curiosity. These qualities and the relationships he’s 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 Thomas Adès, Gerstein’s playing is distinguished by a ferocious technique and discerning intelligence matched by 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, East Asia, and Australia. In the 2022–23 season, Gerstein’s flair for curation is on display as he serves as artist-in-residence for both London’s Wigmore Hall and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (BRSO). At Wigmore, he presents a three-part concert series called Busoni and His World, and with the BRSO, he gives a series of concerts at home and on tour with Alan Gilbert, Daniel Harding, Antonello Manacorda, and Erina Yashima. Last season, Gerstein and Gilbert performed together in a concert for Ukraine with the Deutsches-Symphonie Orchester Berlin and on tour with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. In March, Gerstein also took part in the Ukraine benefit gala held at the Vienna Musikverein where, a few days earlier, he soloed and led the Vienna Philharmonic in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 17.
Elsewhere during the 2022–23 season, international highlights include Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto with both the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Hannu Lintu; Schumann’s Piano Concerto with The Cleveland Orchestra and Edward Gardner and on tour with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla; Thomas Adès with the New York Philharmonic and Ruth Reinhardt; Berg with the Dresden Philharmonic and Marek Janowski; and Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto with the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony and Alan Gilbert. In recital, Gerstein presents, together with Christian Tetzlaff, a new work for violin and piano written for them by Adès and commissioned by the Kronberg Academy and Wigmore Hall; music by Brahms, Hindemith, Clarke, and Shostakovich with his close colleague Tabea Zimmermann on tour in Europe; and works by Stravinsky, Schubert, and Liszt in a solo recital on the Concertgebouw’s Great Pianists series.
Presenting and commissioning new music has long been part of Gerstein’s calling, and in recent years, he’s premiered two new piano concertos written especially for him: the first by British composer and conductor Thomas Adès and the second by Austrian composer Thomas Larcher. Gerstein most recently gave Adès’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra its national premieres in France, Belgium, and Italy, and in the 2022–23 season, he and Adès perform the concerto for the first time in Holland with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and in Austria at the Vienna Musikverein. The pair also takes the work to the US for post-pandemic rescheduled performances with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. During the past year, Gerstein gave the world and national premieres of Larcher’s Piano Concerto with the Berlin Philharmonic—with whom he appeared again in July 2022 at the annual Waldbűhne open-air concert with Chief Conductor Kirill Petrenko—and Semyon Bychkov, who initiated the commission; the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra and Edward Gardner; and the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic and Karina Canellakis. In addition to a planned recording for ECM with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra in the summer of 2023, Gerstein presents the work for the first time in Denmark with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra and Petr Popelka.
A longtime believer in the importance of teaching in the life of a musician, Gerstein is currently on the faculty of the Kronberg Academy and a professor of piano at the Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler Berlin. Under the auspices of the Kronberg Academy, he hosts a series of free and open online seminars called Kirill Gerstein Invites, which features conversations with leading artistic minds. Guest speakers so far have including Adès, Ai Weiwei, Andreas Staier, Brad Mehldau, Iván Fischer, Alex Ross, Matthew Aucoin, Elizabeth Wilson, Simon McBurney, Gerard McBurney, Robert Levin, Reinhard Goebel, Simon Callow, Emma Smith, Deborah Borda, Rafael Viñoly, Sir Antonio Pappano, Kaija Saariaho, Joshua Redman, Khatchig Mouradian, and Michael Haas.
Gerstein’s forthcoming release for myrios classics pairs music of Debussy with the Armenian priest, musicologist, and composer Komitas, and it features collaborations with Adès, Ruzan Mantashyan, and Katia Skanavi. His first collaboration with myrios classics was 10 years ago, and, as a result of that partnership, he’s realized many thoughtfully curated projects, including Mozart Sonatas for Piano Four-Hand with his longtime mentor, Ferenc Rados; a compendium of Adès’s works for piano in collaboration with the composer that won a 2021 International Classical Music Award; Strauss’s Enoch Arden with Bruno Ganz; Busoni’s monumental Piano Concerto with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Sakari Oramo; The Gershwin Moment with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and David Robertson, featuring special appearances by vocalist Storm Large and Gerstein’s former mentor Gary Burton; Liszt’s Transcendental Études, 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.
Earlier recordings on myrios classics include Imaginary Pictures, which couples Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition with Schumann’s Carnaval; two discs of sonatas for viola and piano by Brahms, Schubert, Franck, Clarke, and Vieuxtemps recorded with Tabea Zimmermann; and a recital disc of works by Schumann, Liszt, and Knussen. Deutsche Grammophon’s 2020 release of Gerstein’s world premiere performance of Adès’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra with the Boston Symphony Orchestra won a 2020 Gramophone Award and was nominated for three Grammy Awards. Additionally, he plays works by Tchaikovsky with Semyon Bychkov and the Czech Philharmonic as part of The Tchaikovsky Project, released by Decca Classics, and he’s featured on LAWO Classics’ Scriabin cycle, performing Prometheus: The Poem of Fire and the Piano Concerto with Vasily Petrenko and the Oslo Philharmonic.
Kirill Gerstein was born in Voronezh, Russia, in 1979. He 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 with jazz legend Gary Burton in St. Petersburg when he was 14, he was invited to become the youngest student to attend the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he studied jazz piano while also pursuing his classical piano studies. At the age of 16, Gerstein decided to focus on classical music. He completed his undergraduate and graduate degrees at the Manhattan School of Music, where he studied with Solomon Mikowsky, and then undertook further studies with Dmitri Bashkirov in Madrid and Ferenc Rados in Budapest. Gerstein is the sixth recipient of the prestigious Gilmore Artist Award, and he also won first prize 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.