Monday, 6 December 2010

A JOURNEY OF IMAGINATION / Kevin Kern Piano Recital / Review

Kevin Kern Piano Recital
University Cultural Centre
Saturday (4 December 2010)

A pique of curiosity led this reviewer to attend a recital by the American New Age pianist Kevin Kern. From earlier acquaintances with his saccharine pianism, he appeared a rival to pianist Richard Clayderman and saxophonist Kenny G as the “King of Muzak”. However after sitting through two hours of easy listening, a revision of opinion is in order.

At worst, he is less annoying or pretentious than the above-named self-styled icons of mush. At best, the visually-impaired pianist who walks on stage with a cane that folds up like nunchaku sticks is actually inspiring. Playing mostly his original music and transcriptions, he comes across as affable and sincere.

Doesn't KK look like a cross
between Artur Pizarro and Martin Roscoe?

His pieces, with soppy titles like The Touch Of Love, Joy Of The Journey and Remembering The Light, are short, mostly monothematic, ingratiatingly tuneful and invariably (with one exception) in the “happy” major key. No minor chords, no dynamic shifts to jolt the senses, and no development to tax the mind.

A simple theme is introduced, repeated with slight variation and before boredom sets in, comes to a peaceable close at the third or fourth minute. Besides wallowing in melody, piano students can learn from his steadiness of rhythm, reassuring harmonies and mastery of legato (smooth and seamless) playing.

Ancient Guardians,
a most evocative piece
and only work in the minor key.

The only work in the minor key was Ancient Guardians, which wavered ambiguously between modes before settling down in G minor. A static pace and nod to early music made it memorable. In Dance Of The Dragonfly, Kern improvised like a jazzman for some measures and threw in some blue notes for good measure - easily the most eventful piece.

KK with the inconsequential string quartet
and underworked guitarist.

Kern was joined by a string quartet for the last four pieces. Frankly they need not have bothered, as the arrangements were weak and the playing not up to scratch. Even the guest guitarist had so little to play that it was embarrassing. The audience was later encouraged to clap along for the encores, Dick Lee’s Home and Kern’s Touch The Sky.

Dick Lee's Home, so
Stand Up for Singapore!

Judging by the roaring sales of CDs, sheet music and the interminable queue for autographs, Kevin Kern is at least as popular here as Lang Lang. Let us hope that these young piano fanciers (and their parents) may with time graduate to get acquainted with the great masters – Mozart, Chopin and Bach. They should not be content to subsist on baby food for the rest of their lives.

Kevin Kern's piano recital was presented by Cristofori Music.

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