A FEW YEARS BACK, Danny Kelley was a piano student of Leon Fleisher at Peabody Conservatory and at the same time organist and choir master at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church. Since then the Texan has studied more, played well-received solos at such spots as Carnegie Hall, taught younger pianists and become chairman of the piano faculty at Prairie View A & M University in Texas.
For the past six years, he's also been playing duets around the country with one of his students, Kelvin McClendon, another Texan now studying at Rice University. Wendell G. Wright, the founder of the Lois J. Wright Memorial Concert Series, heard them two seasons ago at the Kennedy Center and invited them to Baltimore.
Yesterday it was their turn here. The two Texans put on an energetic show of duet musicality and endurance at Douglas High School Auditorium. The grateful audience of 75 gave them one big thumbs up. For Kelley (now Dr. Kelley courtesy of Peabody's doctor of musical arts degree), the recital was also a fine Baltimore reunion with some old church friends.
For one hour and 40 minutes of vigorous music-making, including a short break, teacher and now ex-student became two professionals playing a varied program for two pianos by Mozart, Ravel, Lutoslawski and Brahms. They met a standing ovation with a moving encore from Serge Rachmaninov's "Second Suite." Throughout, Kelley and McClendon were coordinated to such a degree the pianos and musicians often sounded as one, perhaps not so strange since they also play one piano, four hands. In any case, the two deserve more listeners. (The auditorium holds about 700.)
Kelley at times was the more aggressive -- and visibly moved by the composers' intentions -- in leading some key passages, but the younger McClendon could take charge when his turn came. The pair tackled the difficult 40-minute Brahms "Sonata in F minor" with fine appreciation for its mood swings in the four 10-minute movements. Dramatically, they played the finale's opening dreamy melody, then alternated in tempo and tone between Brahms' light and dark chords and runs before --ing to a quick bright close.
Kelley and McClendon, who no doubt are still growing as a team and as soloists, may be back in Washington for another concert in June. Meanwhile, the Wright series, now in its 15th season of promoting young classical musicians, plans its next recital at 4 p.m. Feb. 17, when violinist Diane Monroe and pianist Martin David Jones play at the Community College of Baltimore.