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The year 1990 was a milestone for pianist Kevin Kenner, whose artistry was recognized throughout the world by three prestigious awards: the top prize at the International Chopin Competition in Warsaw (together with the Peoples’ Prize and prize for the best Polonaise), the recipient of the International Terrence Judd Award in London, and the bronze medal at the Tchaikovsky International Competition in Moscow (together with the prize for best performance of a Russian work). It was the first time an American pianist had managed to win prizes in both the Chopin and Tchaikovsky Competitions. And in the years leading up to those remarkable accomplishments, he won prizes at the Van Cliburn International Competition (Fort Worth, 1989) and the Gina Bachauer International Competition (Salt Lake City, 1988).
Kevin Kenner’s achievements have won him critical acclaim throughout the world. He has been praised as “one of the finest American pianists to come along in years” (Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune), “…fulfilling a criterion which one only knows from great Chopinists such as Rubinstein, Benedetti-Michelangeli and Dinu Lipatti” (Winfried Wild, Schwaebische Zeitung, Germany). Adrian Jack of London’s Independent describes one of Kenner’s recitals as “…the best performance I have ever heard in the concert hall of all four of Chopin’s Ballades”. The Financial Times described Kenner as a “player of grace, subtle variety and strength, with a mature grasp of dramatic structure and proportion: in short, a grown-up musician nearing his peak.” And the Washington Post recently proclaimed him “a major talent… an artist whose intellect, imagination and pianism speak powerfully and eloquently.” The conductor Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, who recorded with pianists such as Artur Rubinstein, claimed Kenner’s Chopin interpretations to be the most sensitive and beautiful he remembered.
Born in southern California, Kenner showed his interest in piano from a very young age and studied there with Polish pianist Krzysztof Brzuza. As a teenager, Brzuza sent him to Poland to audition for the eminent professor Ludwik Stefanski, who immediately prepared him for the 1980 International Chopin Competition in Warsaw, where he was the youngest competitor and in which he received a special award as the most promising talent.
Kenner’s sojourn in Poland took place during a momentous period in Polish history, coinciding with the beginnings of Solidarity, strikes, protests and severe food shortages. This left an indelible impression and initiated a lifelong love affair with Poland. Following the death of his Polish teacher, he continued his studies for the next five years with legendary pianist Leon Fleisher at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. Returning to Europe once again, Kenner concluded his formal training in Hannover with Karl-Heinz Kämmerling and made his permanent home in Europe. Kenner now resides in Krakow and London, where he teaches at the Royal College of Music.
Kenner has performed as soloist with world-class orchestras including the Hallé Orchestra, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Berlin Symphony Orchestra, the Warsaw Philharmonic, the Czech Philharmonic, the Belgian Radio and Television Philharmonic, the NHK Symphony of Japan, and in the US with the principal orchestras of San Francisco, San Diego, Salt Lake City, Kansas City, New Jersey, Rochester, Baltimore, St. Paul and many others. He has been invited to work with renowned conductors, including Sir Charles Groves, Andrew Davis, Hans Vonk, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, Jerzy Maksymiuk, Kazimierz Kord, Jiri Belohlavek and Antoni Wit.
He has been invited to perform chamber music with illustrious string quartets such as the Belcea, Tokyo, Endellion, Vogler and Panocha to name but a few. He has toured and recorded with the Piazzoforte ensemble performing special arrangements of Astor Piazzolla, Chopin, and Bach. He is also creator and artistic director of the Ensemble XIX, performing the concert music of Chopin on 19th century instruments. He has been invited to adjudicate in some of the most celebrated international piano competitions in Asia, Europe and the US. And in 2010 he comes full circle, having been asked to serve as a juror on the next International Chopin Competition.
Kevin Kenner’s recordings are distributed internationally and include many discs of Chopin works as well as recordings of Ravel, Schumann, Beethoven and Piazzolla, the latter having been awarded a “Fryderyk” in Poland as best CD of the year under the category Chamber Music. He has also established himself as a specialist in period instruments and his recent recording of Chopin solo piano works on an 1848 Pleyel for the National Chopin Institute of Poland received a 5 star “superb” rating by the French magazine Diapason.
This season’s activities include concerts with Franz Bruggen and the Orchestra of XVIII Century, performances and recording sessions with the Ensemble XIX, a Chopin recital on an 1826 Graf at the Cité de la musique in Paris, concerts and recording celebrating Paderewski’s 150th birthday, and concert tours in Japan, USA, Mexico, Canada, Germany, France, Britain and Poland.