April 4, 2009
By Jay Harvey
Based on Michael Kirkendoll's performances so far during Discovery Week, I'm betting he would confer much honor on the APA if he won a fellowship. He seems the very model of a 21st-century pianist.
His choice of repertoire is inspired, to start with. At Christ Church Cathedral earlier Friday, he showed great insight into three very different solo pieces. Virtuosity could almost be assumed, but his technical gifts are truly extraordinary.
Kirkendoll's vast, conscientiously deployed range of dynamics got immediate display in Leos Janacek's sonata "From the Streets." That range was useful in the turbulent panorama "Jazz Connotation," by a young Frenchman, Bruno Mantovani. Inspired by Ornette Coleman, Mantovani uses an improvisational principle that the American saxophonist developed in his free-jazz pioneering. The way he played a whimsical etude by Gyorgy Ligeti, titled with the German for "sorcerer's apprentice," plausibly hinted at Kirkendoll's identity as the sorcerer. Then, with the Parker Quartet helping him anchor the noon recital's chamber-music format, Kirkendoll had you hanging on every phrase of Shostakovich's Piano Quintet in G minor.
Bottom line: Modernism with a human face sets the stage for some elegant Chopin.
CHAMBER MUSIC SERIES
Who: Finalist Michael Kirkendoll with the Parker Quartet.
Bottom line: In a stellar field, this finalist may speak best to our time.