"Gekic rides the charismatic edge of genius"
Richard Dyer, The Boston Globe
Kemal Gekic, pianist
Flamboyant, daring, provocative, exciting, seductive and sensitive are some of the words used to describe one of today’s most formidable pianists, Kemal Gekic, whose playing has been acclaimed worldwide by public and critics alike.
Born in Split, Croatia in 1962, Gekic amazed his family by accurately picking out melodies on the
piano at age one and a half. The young prodigy received all his early musical training from his aunt,
Lorenza Batturina. In 1978 he entered the class of Prof. Jokuthon Mihailovich (a graduate of Moscow Conservatory) at the Art Academy of Novi Sad, Yugoslavia. He graduated in 1982 with the highest mark ever granted a diploma exam recital, and was immediately given a faculty appointment by the piano department which he eventually directed until 1999. During his school years he won prizes at the Franz Liszt Competition in Parma (1981), the Viana da Motta in Lisbon (1983) and the Yugoslav Artists’ Competition in Zagreb (1984).
He earned his Master’s degree in 1985, the same year he created a sensation at the Chopin Competition in Warsaw. Although panned by the jury he won the hearts of audience and critics alike, and began receiving many invitations to perform abroad, including several from the Chopin Society of Hannover, Germany which had awarded him a special prize for best sonata performance at the competition. A recording of his Warsaw performances sold 60,000 copies in Germany by the end of the year, and the Victor Entertainment Corporation, Japan (JVC) sold 80,000 copies of a CD version in their home country. The Warsaw Philharmonic invited Gekic to perform the Chopin E minor Piano Concerto in Philharmonic Hall in their regular series that season. In the same hall, with the same orchestra as he would have done in the competition finals, Gekic wowed the Warsaw audience once more, and for an encore gave Chopin’s Third Sonata in B minor in its entirety!
In the years following the 1985 Warsaw Competition, in addition to extensive concert activity in
Germany, Denmark, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Spain, France, Italy, Canada and of course
Yugoslavia, he completed tours of the USSR and Japan-Southeast Rim. Programs on his life and his
performances were broadcast by RAI Italy, TV Portugal, TV Yugoslavia, NHK Japan, POLTEL Poland, RTV Lower Saxony West Germany, RTV USSR, Intervision, CBC and PBS.
But it was during the early 1990’s that Gekic drastically curtailed his concert activity, going into
seclusion for a further period of intensive study, seeking even higher levels of perfection in his
art. The ‘first fruits’ of this retreat was the landmark recording of the complete Liszt
Transcendental Etudes, generally considered as the best recording of the set ever made. Shortly to
follow were the Naxos recording of Liszt-Rossini transcriptions (including the William Tell Overture)
which won the “Rosette” Prize from the Penguin Guide to Music, and live recordings from Yugoslavia
(VAI), Montreal (Palexa), and Liszt’s Années de Pelerinage Book II from The International Piano
Festival Williamstown, Pennsylvania.
In 1999 he was invited to perform at the Miami International Piano Festival. Minutes before he was to walk on stage, a chance glance at a television showed houses burning in his hometown of Novi Sad. It was March 24th; the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia had begun. Instead of canceling, he went out on stage and played what many consider to be the best recital he ever gave, one that launched his current re-emergence as one of the major pianists of our century.
Over the past few years, Gekic’s appearances worldwide have consistently generated frenzied audience enthusiasm. There are concert recordings from Japan where audible weeping can be heard among members of the normally reserved Japanese public. His sound is constantly evolving, setting a new standard for other pianists to aspire to. His daring approach to interpretation is often perceived as provocative or quixotic, but this is the price he pays for breaking new ground – to “boldly go where no pianist has gone before” might well be taken as his motto. Of one thing you can rest assured – at a Gekic recital you will not receive ‘standard’ interpretations but renditions of the great masterworks that have been subject to his razor-sharp musical scrutiny, his flamboyant imagination, his amazing digital dexterity, his stunningly colorful, wide and varied tonal palette and his ever-deepening comprehension of the spiritual elements of these works. For sure, a Gekic recital will wow you, seduce you, overwhelm you, delight you, transfix you, but in the end Gekic sees the process of musical communication as something even more: as the transmission of spiritual material. In this as well he is sure to give you an unforgettable experience.