Offers soar following Kenner's piano victory

October 25, 1990|By Ernest F. Imhoff | Ernest F. Imhoff,Evening Sun Staff

Kevin Kenner, the 1990 Chopin Piano Competition winner las weekend, already has enough concert and recording offers to keep him busy the next two years and he can finally kiss 10 years of "miserable" piano competitions goodbye.

The 1989 Peabody Conservatory graduate who will appear in Baltimore Tuesday, Salisbury Nov. 29 and Frederick Dec. 1, has reaped this harvest since his Warsaw victory as top (though second-prize) winner:

* After the 8:15 p.m. Peabody concert Tuesday at Friedberg Concert Hall, he leaves next week for seven recitals in 10 days in Germany.

* In April he begins a 7-8 week concert tour of Japan with anywhere from five to 15 recitals planned.

* His Chopin competition performances are already hot items as commercial tapes and compact discs in Europe (his first two rounds of playing was already on Warsaw streets before the last two rounds). Availability in the United States is uncertain.

* He has recording offers from Japan and the Warsaw Philharmonia Orchestra with which he played his final round Concerto No. 1.

* He has collected concert offers from "all over . . . Taipei to Casablanca, Oslo to Buenos Aires."

"I am very excited about everything," the 27-year-old Kenner saiin a rather calm tone yesterday. When he was called for the interview in New York, a friend answered. Kenner was in the background on the piano, playing Chopin's Waltz in A Flat (Opus ABC-TV's "Good Morning America" would interview him today, he explained when he came on the phone. "They want me to play something for a . . . [pause] . . . 'sound bite.'"

"Welcome home," was the response. "Yes," he said and laughed good-naturedly.

He may be enjoying the end of competitions as much as the weekend's high honor and contracts. "I am quite booked and have enough offers for two years. More competitions wouldn't serve any purpose in the foreseeable future. I never enjoyed them and did it mainly for concert offers," said the pianist. It is a decade since he began international competitions when 17 (he placed 10th in the 1980 Chopin).

"It's a very miserable process being judged by 22 people [the Chopin jury], critically evaluating you each moment. In a sense, it's almost distasteful . . . You can't easily compare one [artist's] interpretation to another."

Kenner lost seven pounds in the Chopin and now spreads 168 pounds on a 6-4 frame. ("Don't tell my mother.") He is known by friends and some critics for an easygoing disposition matching a fine piano technique and musicality.

Of his second prize in Warsaw, he said, "I'm not too disappointed. I'm sure there was a good reason why the jury didn't award a first prize. Some aspects of my playing could have been clearer and better. Then again, there was dissension in the jury and . . . the orchestra and I weren't always together."

Every piece Kenner played in the Warsaw contest was recorded in three of five "competition chronicles." Besides the concerto, they included three etudes, a nocturne, a scherzo, a ballade, six preludes, a waltz, a sonata and three mazurkas.

Kenner continues to feel most at home with Frederic Chopin among composers. He will play the Warsaw winner, Chopin's first concerto, Tuesday at Peabody. "But I try to keep my repertory balanced. I do enjoy Brahms, Ravel, Schubert, Schumann."

After many appearances elsewhere, Kenner's Tuesday appearance is actually his first big public debut in Baltimore. While a Peabody student, he was invited by Margaret Budd, organist and concert coordinator of the Second Presbyterian Church, to play in recital there.

Further, he's never played with either the Peabody Symphony Orchestra (Tuesday's concerto partner) or the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (his Salisbury and Frederick accompanists).

Kenner's wife, Sonya Dembinska, an English pianist who also plays recitals, is with him on his trip here. They live in Hanover, Germany, where he is studying with Karl Heinz Kaemmerling. After next July, they'll probably move to England.

Kenner's parents, Park and Juanita Kenner, of Coronado, Calif., and one of his sisters, Nancy, are expected here for the Baltimore homecoming Tuesday.

"I'm delighted to be coming back to Peabody," Kenner said. "I'm honored to play with the orchestra . . . Peabody was my source of music education . . . And Leon Fleisher, my teacher there, had a great influence on my style and approach."

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