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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. ...
Chamber
PASSIONATE BRAHMS-SCHOENBERG MUSIC CLOSES VOM FESTIVAL SUMMER
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, July 29, 2018
An extraordinary program of chamber music by Brahms and Schoenberg attracted a capacity crowd to the Valley of the Moon Music Festival’s final concert July 29th in Sonoma’s Hanna Center. It opened with a richly expressive reading by Festival Laureate violinist Rachell Wong and pianist Jeffrey LaDeur...
Chamber
PRAGUE AND VIENNA PALACE GEMS HIGHLIGHT VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, July 28, 2018
The remarkable Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival presented a concert called “Kinsky Palace” July 28 on their final Festival weekend in Sonoma’s Hanna Center. Two well-known treasures and one lesser gem were programmed. Starting the afternoon offerings were violinist Monica Huggett and Fest...
Chamber
INNOVATIVE CHAMBER WORKS IN HANNA CENTER CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, July 22, 2018
The Valley of the Moon Music Festival presented a July 22 concert featuring three giants: Haydn, Schubert and Schumann, composers who altered music of their time with creative innovations and artistic vision. In the fourth season the Festival’s theme this year is “Vienna in Transition”, and VOM Fes...
Chamber
VIENNA INSPIRATION FOR VOM FESTIVAL PROGRAM AT HANNA CENTER
by Nicki Bell
Saturday, July 21, 2018
A music-loving audience filled Sonoma’s Hanna Center Auditorium July 21 to begin a record weekend of three concerts, produced by the Valley of the Moon Music Festival. The Festival’s theme this summer is “Venice in Transition – From the Enlightenment to the Dawn of Modernism” Prior to Saturday’s m...
Chamber
VANHAL QUARTET AT VOM FESTIVAL DISCOVERY AT HANNA CENTER
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, July 15, 2018
A near-capacity crowd of 220 filled the Sonoma Hanna Boys Center Auditorium July 15 for the opening concert of the fourth Valley of the Moon Music Festival. This Festival presents gems of the Classical and early Romantic periods performed on instruments of the composer’s era, which presents a few ch...
Opera
SPARKLING CIMAROSA OPERA HIGHLIGHTS MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Kathryn Stewart
Friday, July 13, 2018
The Classical music era was a time of extraordinary innovation. Dominated by composers from the German-speaking countries, the period witnessed the handiwork of masterpieces by two classical giants, Haydn and Mozart. Both composers put forth a tremendous catalog of masterful works and perhaps to our...
Symphony
!PURA VIDA! A SONIC TRIUMPH FOR SO CO PHIL IN THRILLING COSTA RICA TOUR CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Long anticipated events, such as a great sporting game, gourmet feast, holiday trip or a concert, occasionally fall way short of expectations. The results don’t measure to expectations. With the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Costa Rica concert June 19, the performance exceeded any heated or tenuou...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
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.