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Symphony
LECCE-CHONG PROVES HIS METTLE WITH SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 07, 2018
Francesco Lecce-Chong was handed two warhorses for his debut as conductor of the Santa Rosa Symphony, and he rode them both to thrilling victory. For the first win, Brahms’ violin concerto, he owed much to soloist Arnaud Sussman, but for the other triumph, Beethoven’s fifth symphony, he and his musi...
Chamber
THORNY BARTOK AND ELEGANT MENDELSSOHN FOR THE BRENTANO
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, September 30, 2018
In a minor masterpiece of programming choices the Brentano String Quartet played a Sept. 30 Weill Hall program with an emphasis on refinement, even with a challenging Bartok work in the mix. Dvorák’s Miniatures for Two Violins and Viola (Op. 75a) opened the concert with charm and gentle loveliness,...
Chamber
ECHO'S RICH MUSICAL TAPESTRY IN MARIN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, September 30, 2018
Marin’s Echo Chamber Orchestra unfurled a glorious tapestry of Mozart, Weber and Respighi music Sept. 30 in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church. The church, located on the grounds of San Francisco Theological Seminary, boasts a ceiling high enough for angels to fly, and its quiet setting and aco...
Recital
IDIOMATIC SCHUMANN AND BEETHOVEN HIGHTLIGHT WALKER'S CONCERTS GRAND RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 23, 2018
Mostly known as a concert producer and indefatigable promoter of Sonoma County music, pianist Judy Walker stepped into the soloist’s role Sept. 23 in a sold out recital for the Concerts Grand House recitals series. Two Scarlatti Sonatas, in D Minor (K. 213) and D Major (K. 29), began the hour-long ...
Symphony
SAKAKEENY'S LION AND ROSE HIGHLIGHTS SO CO PHIL'S 20TH SEASON OPENER
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 22, 2018
Fresh from a triumphant tour in Latin America the Sonoma County Philharmonic opened its 20th season Sept. 22 in a celebratory concert in the Santa Rosa High School Auditorium. Keeping to the evening’s orchestra history and past performance, conductor emeritus Gabriel Sakakeeny, who led the So Co Ph...
Recital
DEDIK'S POTENT BEETHOVEN AND CHOPIN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Monday, September 17, 2018
Anastasia Dedik returned Sept. 17 to the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series in a recital that featured three familiar virtuoso works in potent interpretations. Chopin’s G Minor Ballade hasn’t been heard in Sonoma County public concerts since a long-ago Earl Wild performance, and Beethoven’s...
Recital
DUO WEST OPENS OCCIDENTAL CONCERT SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 09, 2018
Before a full house at the Occidental Performing Arts Center Sept. 9 the cello-piano Duo West, playing from score throughout, presented a recital that on paper looked stimulating and thoughtful. Beginning with MacDowell’s To A Wild Rose (from Woodland Sketches, Op. 51), the transcription by an unan...
Chamber
CELLO-PIANO DUO IN HUSKY SPRING LAKE VILLAGE PROGRAM
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, September 05, 2018
Two thirds of the way through a stimulating 22-concert season the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series Sept. 5 presented two splendid cello sonatas before 110 people in the Village’s Montgomery auditorium. A duo for more than a decade, East Bay musicians cellist Monica Scott and pianist Hadle...
Chamber
EXTRAVAGANT FUSION OF STYLES AT CHRIS BOTTI BAND WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Jerry Dibble
Sunday, August 12, 2018
Trumpeter Chris Botti still performs in jazz venues including SF Jazz and The Blue Note, but now appears mostly in cavernous halls or on outdoor stages like the Sonoma State University’s Green Music Center. He brought his unique road show to the packed Weill Hall August 12 in a concert of effusive e...
Chamber
SCHUBERT "MIT SCHLAG" AT VOM FESTIVAL MORNING CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, July 29, 2018
The spirit of 19th century Vienna was present July 29 on the final day of the Valley of the Moon Music Festival. The Festival in the second half of July glittered with innovative programming and the new, old sound of original instruments played by musicians who love music with historic instruments. ...
RECITAL REVIEW
Dominican University of California Guest Concert Series / Sunday, April 08, 2018
Kevin Kenner, piano

Pianist Kevin Kenner at Dominican University April 8 (AW Photo)

KENNER'S ALL POLISH RECITAL HAS PADEREWSKI RARITY

by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, April 08, 2018

Kevin Kenner’s April 8 recital at Dominican University’s Angelico Hall had been advertised as all-Chopin, but he added a detour into another seminal Polish composer-pianist, Paderewski. Several of Mr. Kenner’s teachers were Poles, he speaks Polish, and he navigated at the piano both composers’ demanding and diverse musical landscapes with virtuosity, clarity and controlled emotion.

From the spare, opening melodic line of Ballade No. 1 in G minor, through the rousing finale of the monumental B minor Sonata at recital’s end, Mr. Kenner lived in the heart and soul of this iconic music. The shifting moods of the Ballade were gloriously conveyed, and it is in turns intense, lyrical, ominous, joyful and tragic. Each section of the piece is almost a composition in itself, posing its own questions and answers, taking new paths and coming to a histrionic destination. Mr. Kenner interpreted each section with its unique colors, tempi, and motifs, and explored each thoroughly.

Following the Ballade Mr. Kenner played Paderewski’s Sonata in E Flat Major, Op. 21, composed in 1903. It is rarely programmed, and the pianist spoke to the audience to provide some background. Chopin and Paderewski both lived in a Poland partitioned by Russia, Prussia, and Austria-Hungary, and this year is the 100th anniversary of Poland regaining its independence. Paderewski, as a patriot and for a short time Polish President, was an articulate and vigorous spokesperson for independence. The divided land offered a harsh existence for the Polish people, and Mr. Kenner said it was “a land of anguish, frustration, and tragedy,” and the sonata seemed to allude all these things. He cautioned the work is “a challenge to get into, and challenging for the artist.”

The sonata has three movements. The first Allegro con fuoco is thick and insistent with fiendish difficult runs and intrusive repetitions, communicating a palpable sense of anguish and defiance. The andante second movement relieved the sense of dread, though never entirely, with lovely sonorities. The third movement, Allegro Vivace, which begins where the andante leaves off, burst out like a fearful chase with frenetic and dense keyboard runs. It then changed into a beautiful dark and rich fugue, and finally into an agitated conclusion of hopelessness. The wonder of Mr. Kenner’s performance was that even within the most intricate and rapid passages, which easily could be muddied by lack of finger staccato or too much damper pedal, he articulated the notes with crystalline clarity and brought out the the major themes.

Following intermission the audience returned for the all-Chopin second half. Mr. Kenner began with the tender, tragic Nocturne in D Flat Major, Op. 27, No. 2. Its repeating six-note figurations left hand and the poignant melodies in the right communicated yearning and a hint of melancholy. The ornaments were played delicately and the artist conveyed exquisite clarity and subtle passion. So complete was the spell he cast in the nocturne that the audience didn’t applaud, and out of that silence Mr. Kenner moved right into the F Sharp-Minor Polonaise, Op. 44. This tour-de-force with its military themes and snare drum and marching effects was beautifully performed.

Next came three mazurkas gems from Op. 63, composed in 1846. In the B Major, Mr. Kenner’s pianism evoked the gaiety of the Polish folk dance that Chopin observed in his youth—the twirling women’s skirts, pungent rhythms and the whirling of the dancers. The short 56-measure F Minor was slower, played with touching simplicity. The No. 3 in C Sharp Minor flowed with beguiling inner voices. Mr. Kenner’s touch throughout the three miniatures was silky.

The great third Sonata, Op. 58 (from 1844), closed the program and well illustrated the sensitivity and skill with which Mr. Kenner interprets this composer. There’s so much to explore in its shifting rhythms, tonalities and moods. The work is divided into four movements, and the opening allegro maestro is introspective with dotted rhythms and lyrical almost operatic song, and ends dramatically. The second movement (scherzo: molto vivace) is by turns nostalgic and potent in left-hand chords. The reflective largo third movement, the center of the composition, held the audience in thrall. There was much of a nocturne in this movement and an elegant melodic line modulating in B and E Major. The sonata came to a triumphal finale (presto nan tanto) in dramatic B Minor opening octaves and unfolded with a relentless and potent character.

The audience showed its appreciation with a prolonged standing ovation. Afterwards the pianist attended a reception in Angelico’s lobby and spoke at length to his many admirers.