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). 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).
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 Stefański, who immediately prepared him for the Tenth International Chopin Competition in Warsaw, where as the youngest competitor he received a special award and finished in 10th place.
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, events which left an indelible impression upon him. Following the death of his Polish teacher, he continued his studies with legendary American pianist Leon Fleisher at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. And he finalized his formal training with Karl-Heinz Kämmerling at the Hochschule für Musik in Hannover, Germany.
Shortly after his prize at the 1990 Chopin Competition, Kenner settled in England where he remained for 19 years. He frequently appeared at Wigmore Hall and the South Bank Centre, recorded with the BBC Symphony and engaged in numerous projects with BBC Radio 3. The UK papers 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.” (Financial Times), and following an appearance at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Adrian Jack of the Independent described his recital as “…the best performance I have ever heard in the concert hall of all four of Chopin’s Ballades”. Following a tour of Italy with the renowned conductor Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, who had recorded with pianists such as Artur Rubinstein, he described Kenner’s Chopin interpretations as the most sensitive and beautiful he remembered.
KENNER’S PERFORMANCE CAREER has connected him with the Hallé Orchestra, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Berlin Symphony Orchestra, the Warsaw Philharmonic, the Czech Philharmonic, the Orchestra of the 18th Century, the Belgian Radio and Television Philharmonic, the NHK Symphony of Japan, and in the US with the symphony orchestras of San Francisco, San Diego, Salt Lake City, Kansas City, New Jersey, Rochester, Baltimore, St. Paul and many others. He has collaborated with Sir Charles Groves, Andrew Davis, Hans Vonk, Frans Bruggen, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, Jerzy Maksymiuk, Kazimierz Kord, Jiri Belohlavek and Antoni Wit.
KENNER is also an active chamber musician. After working as duo partner to cellist Matt Haimovitz, he established a continuing partnership with violinist Kyung-Wha Chung with whom he has recorded and toured in Europe, Asia and America. He has performed with illustrious string quartets such as the Belcea, Tokyo, Endellion, Vogler, Panocha, and Escher Quartets. His most recent collaboration with the Apollon Musagète Quartet and double-bassist Sławomir Rozlach resulted in an award winning recording of the two Chopin Piano Concertos arranged by Kenner and Krzysztof Dombek for string quintet. He has also recorded special arrangements of works by Piazzolla as a member of the Piazzoforte Ensemble, earning him a “Fryderyk” in 2006 for best chamber recording of the year by the Polish Society of the Phonographic Industry. Five years later he was awarded another “Fryderyk” for his recording of Paderewski’s Concerto and Polish Fantasy with the Podlaska Philharmonic.
Teaching has been one of Kenner’s passions since accepting a post in 2000 at the Royal College of Music in London, where he taught for over a decade. Since 2015, he has worked at the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music, where he currently serves as Associate Professor and Artistic Director and Founder of the Frost Chopin Academy, an annual summer academy that connects talented students of Chopin’s music in direct contact with some of the world’s most respected Chopin specialists. Kenner also served as visiting professor at the Academy of Music in Łódź, Poland from 2015-2017, from which he also received an honorary doctorate (2018).
Kenner’s commitment to building and supporting the next generation of classical pianists includes participating as juror in some of the most celebrated international piano competitions including the Busoni International Competition in Bolzano (2017), the Prague Spring International Music Competition (2021) and the International Chopin Competition (2010, 2021). He has also been invited to serve as chair of the jury at the International Chopin Competition in Darmstadt (2018), the National Chopin Competition in Miami (2020), and the Parnassus International Competition in Peru (2021).