Awards Aside, S.D. Pianists Honor Their Profession

Despite its reputation as a fun-in-the-sun, laid-back haven, San Diego County has contributed its share of diligent and accomplished young pianists to the larger musical world. A triumvirate of local musicians, Gustavo Romero, Kevin Kenner, and David Korevaar developed their talents here before pursuing advanced studies and careers on the East Coast. Each has successfully competed for acclaim in a field crowded with able aspirants.

Paradoxically, Romero, who has earned the greatest amount of international attention, has kept his local ties in best repair. This summer he won Switzerland's Clara Haskell Competition before embarking on a tour. Yet he made his usual San Diego fall pilgrimage this month, appearing as soloist with the International Orchestra and playing a solo recital on the same weekend. It is unusual for a season to pass without a generous supply of Romero performances.

Kenner, the Coronado native who captured momentary media attention as the only American semifinalist in this year's Van Cliburn Competition, has rarely performed in the area since he began his studies at Baltimore's Peabody Conservatory. His next local appearance will not be until April, 1990, when he will play Grieg's ubiquitous Piano Concerto with the San Diego State University Orchestra under music director Donald Barra.

On the local scene, former La Jollan David Korevaar has been more visible than Kenner, but he rarely plays outside La Jolla. This Saturday, the 27-year-old pianist will make his recital debut on the La Jolla Chamber Music Society's Sherwood Auditorium Series. The society had sponsored a benefit recital for Korevaar in 1984 to sponsor his New York City debut, but that benefit program was not part of the society's prestigious chamber music series.

Like his colleagues, Korevaar has found the competition route conducive to career building. His 1985 Peabody-Mason award--a not to be sneered at $40,000--and the top prize at the 1988 William Kapell Competition have kept Korevaar visible. While pursuing his performing career, he continues to enter competitions, largely for the publicity value.

"I'm careful to mention only those competitions in which I have done well," said Korevaar from his home in Norwalk, Conn. "In August, I entered the Robert Casadesus Competition in Cleveland, where I won the prize for the best performance of a work by a French composer."

Korevaar paused and then conceded, "But that was more of a consolation prize from a few judges who felt I should have ranked higher in the competition itself."

Though he is not a rabid crusader for new music, Korevaar's innovative programming frequently favors new compositions. The first half of his La Jolla recital will be divided between Mozart and Brahms, but he will also play his own single-movement Second Sonata (1985) and Ernst von Dohnanyi's rarely heard "Ruralia Hungarica."

"I've always had an affinity for Dohnanyi," he said. "I programmed his music on my New York debut. The 'Ruralia' is a relatively late work in the composer's career, highly personal and full of spectacular virtuosity."

Korevaar spends the other half of his performing dates with Hexagon, an unusual chamber music ensemble made up of piano and woodwind quintet.

Kudos for SONOR. The Schoenberg Institute of the USC School of Music has announced that UC San Diego's SONOR contemporary will perform the fourth and final installment of its "Homage to Schoenberg's Pierrot lunaire" on Jan. 25 at the institute. The ambitious project, inaugurated by the San Francisco Contemporary Players in 1987, has commissioned leading composers to write their own musical settings of Albert Giraud's poems not selected by Schoenberg for his landmark 1912 "Pierrot lunaire." Soprano Carol Plantamura will be SONOR's featured soloist in this concert.

North County Culture. Violinist David Kim will conclude his week-long residency in Carlsbad with a performance Friday night at the Carlsbad Community Cultural Art Center. Part of the Affiliate Artist program of the Pacific Telesis Foundation, Kim will present eight informal musical programs at schools, retirement homes, and service clubs throughout the North County city. Since his splashy debut at the 1986 Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow--he was the only American violinist to win a top prize--he has enjoyed solo performances with the Moscow State Symphony and a respectable number of American orchestras.

Go for Baroque. San Diego's intrepid Early Music Society will open its 1989-90 season at the La Jolla Congregational Church with a concert Sunday by Trio a Corde, a Baroque ensemble of violin, viola da gamba and lute. Each member of the Los Angeles-based trio plays a period instrument, which gives this specialized chamber music its authentic sound. This concert may also be the only local opportunity to hear works by Uccelini and Zamboni on the same program.

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