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Recital
GLITTERING PIANISM IN LI'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Piano prodigies have always been a fascination for the music public, and the greatest of them (some were Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Saint Saëns, Hofmann) went on to legendary fame. George Li, who made is local debut at a Music at Oakmont recital April 11, was a remarkable recent keyboard prodigy t...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL'S SEASON CLOSER WITH EXPANSIVE PROKOFIEV 5TH IN JACKSON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 07, 2019
Closing their 20th season with their usual programming aplomb, the Sonoma County Philharmonic played a provocative set of concerts April 6 and 7 in the Jackson Theater, the Orchestra’s new home at the Sonoma Country Day School by the Sonoma County Airport. Local composer Nolan Gasser’s Sonoma Overt...
Choral and Vocal
SISTINE CHAPEL INSPIRATION FOR THE TALLIS SCHOLARS IN WEILL HALL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, April 05, 2019
Returning to Weill Hall April 5 after a seven year absence, the ten singers of the Tallis Scholars brought the sacred choral tradition of Palestrina and his contemporaries to an audience of delighted music lovers. Under the direction of Peter Phillips, the 1973 founder of the group, the program was...
Symphony
AUTUMNAL SIBELIUS 7TH HIGHLIGHTS VSO'S SEASON CLOSING CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 31, 2019
Closing their 87th Season March 30 and 31 the Vallejo Symphony has moved from a single weekend concert to a set of two, and the late March response was two full houses in the charming downtown Vallejo Empress Theater. Conductor Marc Taddei opened the Sunday program with a rousing performance of B...
Recital
SHARED INSTRUMENTAL BEAUTY IN VIEAUX-MEYERS WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Exciting timbral sound and intricate counterpoint, made possible when two artists with complementary instruments play together, were richly explored by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and guitarist Jason Vieaux March 30 in Weill Hall. Whether in close harmony, or unison, or weaving separate melodies to...
Chamber
RARE MAHLER QUARTET AT MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Piano quartets are relatively rare in the classical literature, and there are only about 40 compositions for the combination of piano, violin, viola and cello, mostly from the Romantic period of the mid to late 1800s. It therefore was special March 24 to hear three great works of this medium, perfor...
Symphony
AMERICAN CLASSICS SPARKLE UNDER KAHANE’S BATON
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, March 16, 2019
Jeffrey Kahane, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s former conductor, returned to the Weill Hall podium on Saturday night, and the results were expectedly wonderful. The concert of American classics was by turns playful (Gershwin’s “An American in Paris”), emotional (Barber’s violin concerto) and triumphant (...
Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
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.