This is Chopin presented with a difference. For here Kevin Kenner follows a reeling path, moving effortlessly from Chopin through related composers (Scriabin, Szymanowski, etc) to Bill Evans (who I once had the rare privilege of hearing in the hallucinatory and narcotic atmosphere of a Dallas nightclub) and George Crumb. To crown everything, all the performances by this American but European-based multi-prize-winning pianist are of unwavering mastery and musicianship, with towering but never forced strength and a rubato and nuance both personal and telling. He is exceptionally glittering and stylish in Chopin’s Fantasie-Impromptu (later making a ghostly reappearance in Crumb’s Dream Images) and offers a tantalising glimpse of Balakirev’s extensive but little-recorded repertoire in his Second Nocturne, music enriched with the composer’s elegant and conversational brilliance.
One mystery remains. Kenner’s own fine essay makes no mention of a lavish arrangement of Chopin’s Mazurka, Op 7 No 2. This is sufficiently piquant and startling to raise eyebrows and I was reminded of Moiseiwitsch’s mischievous delight in teasing his audience with one delectable but unannounced encore after another. Everything is beautifully recorded on a light-toned instrument quite without alien heaviness or texture. This is a record to fascinate even the most blasé listener and I can scarcely wait to hear this superb and enterprising artist in further recordings.