The idea of the Fantasy - Fantasie, Fantasia, Phantasy … pick
your preferred spelling - has been around for a few hundred years.
And why not? What would be more tempting to a composer than to
let his or her imagination run free, unrestrained by the rules
of form? Works by some of the earliest keyboard composers in the
early sixteenth century bear the title. The romantic composers
had a field day with the genre, producing some magnificent and
two sonatas Op. 27, which bear the name “quasi una fantasia”,
make use of this musical free-wheeling in their opening movements.
The “Moonlight” so named by the poet Heinrich Rellstab when
he commented that the first movement reminded him of the moonlight
over Lake Lucerne, opens with what in other hands could have
been a monotonous chord progression of broken triads, followed
by a rather out of character and jaunty second movement. It
ends with a c-sharp minor thunderstorm by which a pianist
could easily sprain a wrist.
Schumann’s collection of miniatures is intentionally programmatic,
each with whimsical titles. Rapid-fire shifts of emotion mark
these gems that can at one moment lull the listener into reveries
and at the next send him bolting out of his easy-chair.
gives us a work on a far grander scale, a composition that
runs the gamut of emotions from serenity to broad rushes of
is all delivered with great finesse by the American pianist
Kevin Kenner, heretofore unknown to me, but who seems to have
established a fine working relationship with the Polish Dux
label. A musician of excellent pedigree, Mr. Kenner plays
with great technical authority and with a fine sensitivity
to structure, form, tonal shading and expression. Perfectly
able to exhibit technical brilliance, Mr. Kenner chooses to
disguise his prowess in subtleties rather than to blast us
with unseemly keyboard pyrotechnics. His playing of the much
over-recorded Beethoven sonata is governed with impeccable
taste. Even the flashy finale is rendered with much elegance,
with careful attention to inner voices, and with special care
to make the perpetual arpeggios come across with clarity and
Schumann can be positively dreamy where allowed; powerful
and authoritative where appropriate. The contrast between
Evening with its serene melody and Soaring with
its jet engine power is so pronounced that the shift between
movements can be startling.
Mr. Kenner delivers a beautifully restrained account of Chopin’s
Op. 49. It is so easy to romp through Chopin’s music just
to show off, and somewhat rare to find a player who has discovered
the poetry in the music. Kenner is just such a musician, and
he is able, through carefully crafted phrasing and a fine
singing melodic line to bring off this music in such a way
as to never belie its technical sand traps.
always, the highest compliment I can pay to a recording is
that it left me wanting to hear more from the artist. This
is just such a disc. Kevin Kenner is a fine discovery; one
that I hope will come to even more international attention
in the future.