Intiution is the Key
Małgorzta Wende: How do you feel about the first verdict of the Jury?
Kevin Kenner:Obviously I cannot give away the details, but I felt a certain satisfaction that we, as a jury, had made a decision together. There are always disappointments and differences of opinion but generally we have reached a consensus. There is something special about this jury. The fact that so many of us are performers or teachers of great performers makes a very interesting combination.
MW: Can two professional pianists have a totally different opinion of the same performance?
KK: Yes, they can. The issue of what our values are in music certainly affects the way that we listen, the way we listen leads to our opinion. There are some aspects of the music to which we are very sensitive and other aspects we do not consider to be as important. Of course, as a member of a jury you want to try to have ears that are open to as many of the dimensions of music as possible. In other words, as a judge I do not try to compare a performance to my personal taste. I try to listen as openly as possible and accept the interpretation based on its own inner logic. If in that particular logic it is convincing and powerful then I think it is a great performance. Who can listen to every dimension of music equally? We listen for line, for colour, but in the end the judgements are often quite intuitive. We are not scientists who can tear a performance apart, analyse it and just break down into bits and pieces. But I always try to use my intellect to explain rationally what lies behind my intuition.
MW: Do you have your own private criteria that you always listen for?
KK: I have never been able to say exactly what those are. There is a kind of essence of Chopin's music that needs to be found in the performance of his music. And the power of a performance lies in the performer's ability to give newly born life to this essence. In this way there are two aspects of a performance on which to judge: what the performer tells us about Chopin, meaning the content of the message, and secondly how well and in what form this message is conveyed.
MW: Are you always be sure that your decision is just, that you haven't made a mistake?
KK: That is the wrong question to ask. It arises, of course, because of the nature of competition which is, by definition, an activity that has nothing to do with music. It was borrowed from our society, based on competition within a particular political and economic environment. Music is not part of this world. Yet I feel that because of our failure in the music world to find a better way of helping young musicians to be heard and to develop their careers, we have borrowed this unfortunate system. We are then faced with the problem of judging and comparison. The real problem is in having competitions at all, not so much in debating whether they are fair.
This article comes from the "Chopin Express" gazette published for the 16th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute and Gramophone magazine.
View the audition recitals online at chopin2010.pl/en/competitions/xvith-chopins-competition.html
Other articles of interest in "Chopin Express" 12:
"Chopin: Strictly Polish?" - Essay by Stanisław Dybowski