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Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
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...
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...
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 ...
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...
Recital
MUSICAL ALCHEMY INSIDE A HIDDEN GEM
by Kayleen Asbo
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is a hidden gem of Sonoma County, a gracious building that is one of Sonoma County’s loveliest venues for chamber music concerts, with a fine period piano particularly suited to Romantic music.  Of the surprisingly large array of festivities there, one of t...
Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago “Golden Era” of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didn’t play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuber’s work to the public’s attention, and now they seem to be on almost ever...
Recital
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’ deman...
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.