Maybe pianist Kenner can quit competing and go on tours now

October 22, 1990|By Ernest F. Imhoff | Ernest F. Imhoff,Evening Sun Staff

MARYLAND MUSIC LOVERS CAN MATCH scorecards with the Chopin Piano Competition jury twice in the next month when Kevin Kenner, top winner in the prestigious contest Friday and 1989 Peabody Conservatory graduate, performs in Baltimore Oct. 30 and Salisbury Nov. 29.

Kenner, a 27-year-old, even-tempered Californian, won the biggest honor of his award-filled career but also a curious mixed TC decision requiring an asterisk, like a baseball player's qualified record, when the 22-person Warsaw jury decided Kenner was the best pianist among the almost 140 who competed but deserved only second prize.

Kenner also shared first prize in the polonaise competition. A 19-year-old Japanese, Yukio Yokoyama, won the overall third prize. But there were no winners in the concerto and mazurka categories of the all-Chopin contest.

Krystof Brzuza, of San Diego, a veteran pianist though not a neutral Warsaw observer -- he was Kenner's early teacher before the Peabody's Leon Fleisher took over here -- said in an interview that Kenner played the Chopin Concerto No. 1 "with beautiful bravura" during most of his final round last Thursday.

"Kevin played very maturely, beautifully, not as a schoolboy technician. He was very nervous in the first movement. Kevin was the first player in the final round and he struggled with the (Warsaw Symphony) orchestra. The orchestra didn't pick up the right tempo and there were a few wrong notes. But the second and third movements were beautiful.

"The jurors apparently felt the contestants didn't play as well, with unusual individuality and musicality, in the third and fourth round as they did in the first and second. I don't agree with them about Kevin. He played very musically throughout, and the audience loved him so much. But we can't complain too much. We are very proud and happy. This is most important for Kevin's concert career."

In fact, Mrs. Juanita Kenner, the pianist's ecstatic mother who talked with him from Coronado, Calif., this weekend, said in an interview, "I don't think he will have to do another competition."

Kenner has frequently entered the brutal contests (he placed 10th at the Chopin as a 17-year-old) to further his concert career and has done well in them but "for the record, I do not enjoy them."

The pianist, unavailable for immediate comments, was described at first as pleased but perplexed by the jurors' unprecedented taking a walk on first place. His mother said it sounded like the jury spent five hours "quarreling and fighting" before the verdict came at 2 a.m., way past the usual time.

Ms. Kenner and Brzuza said the Warsaw success this weekend has already produced immediate offers for concert tours that Kenner is likely to accept in Germany, later this year, and Japan next year. Brzuza said the Warsaw Symphony is considering an American tour with Kenner.

Brzuza said that because Kenner was "tired" after more than three weeks in Warsaw, he felt he may not be prepared for the originally scheduled Mozart Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor and has asked Baltimore officials whether, instead, he could play the same Chopin Concerto No. 1 he played in Warsaw.

Kenner is expected to receive a hero's welcome when he plays as the Arthur Friedheim soloist at 8:15 p.m. Oct. 30 here at Peabody's Friedberg Concert Hall with the Peabody Symphony Orchestra under Everett Lee, guest conductor. Tickets are $8, and $4 for seniors and students with I.D. For reservations and information, call 659-8124.

Then with Christopher Seaman leading the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Kenner will play at 8 p.m. Nov. 29 in Parkside High School Auditorium, Salisbury. Tickets are $20, and $10 for students and may be bought at the door or by calling (301) 543-ARTS.

Kenner was married in August to Sonia Dembinska, an English pianist he met in Poland in 1987. They live temporarily in Hanover, Germany, where he is studying under a scholarship with a German teacher.

Tall and thin (6-foot-4 and 175 pounds), Kenner is the youngest of five children of Juanita and Park Kenner, of Coronado, Calif. A Mormon, he studied at Brigham Young University after graduation from Coronado High School.

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