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Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
Symphony
PEACE AND LOVE FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 04, 2018
Before the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 4 performance of Leonard Bernstein’s “Symphonic Dances from West Side Story,” Symphony CEO Alan Silow took a moment to acknowledge the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue attack and to observe that music offers a more peaceful and loving view of the world. Mr. ...
Chamber
ATOS TRIO IN MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 04, 2018
When the ATOS Piano Trio planned their all-Russian touring program at their Berlin home base, it had a strong elegiac, even tragic theme that surely resonated with their Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience Nov. 4 in Mill Valley. Comprised of Annette von Hehn, violin; Thomas Hoppe, piano; and...
Chamber
ATOS TRIO IN OCCIDENTAL CHAMBER CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 03, 2018
When the Berlin-based ATOS Piano Trio entered the cramped Occidental Performing Arts stage Nov. 3, the audience of 100 anticipated familiar works in the announced all-Russian program. What they got was a selection of rarely-plays trios, with a gamut of emotions. Then one-movement Rachmaninoff G Mi...
Symphony
MIGHTY SHOSTAKOVICH 10TH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 28, 2018
Just two works were on the opening program of the Marin Symphony’s 67th season Oct. 28, Tchaikovsky’s iconic D Major Violin Concerto, and Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony. Before a full house in the Marin Center Auditorium conductor Alasdair Neale set a judicious opening tempo in the brief orchestra i...
Symphony
VIVALDI FOR ALL SEASONS IN WEILL BAROQUE CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, October 27, 2018
The Venice Baroque Orchestra, a dozen superb musicians that include strings, harpsichord and recorder, played an uplifting concert Oct. 27 of mostly Vivaldi sinfonias and concertos. The Weill Hall audience of 600 had rapt attention throughout, and the playing was of the highest musical level. This r...
Recital
LIN'S PIANISM AND PERSONA CHARM SCHROEDER HALL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 21, 2018
In somewhat of a surprise a sold out Schroeder Hall audience greeted pianist Steven Lin Oct. 21 in his local debut recital. Why a surprise? Because Mr. Lin was pretty much unknown in Northern California, and Schroeder is rarely, very rarely sold out for a single instrumentalist. But no matter, and...
Chamber
HEROIC TRUMPET AND ORGAN MUSIC AT INCARNATION
by Jerry Dibble
Friday, October 12, 2018
The strong connections between Santa Rosa’s musical community and California State University Chico were on display Oct. 12 as David Rothe, Professor Emeritus in the Chico Music Department, and Ayako Nakamura, trumpet with the North State Symphony, presented a concert titled “Heroic Music for Trumpe...
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.