Louis Kentner


Born: July 19, 1905 Died: September 22, 1987
Although most warmly remembered for his recorded collaborations with his brother-in-law Yehudi Menuhin, Louis Kentner was an important solo performer. His Brahms was noted for its glowing breadth and his Liszt had the stamp of authority. Indeed, Kentner contributed significantly to the rehabilitation of the latter composer's works for solo piano. Kentner was proactive, as well, in the performance of works by contemporary composers; he was much admired by several British composers for his efforts on their behalf and for the exacting standards to which he held.

Of Hungarian and Austrian parentage, Kentner trained in composition at the Budapest Royal Academy with Zoltán Kodály and Hans Koessler while pursuing his piano studies with Arnold Szekely and Leó Weiner. His debut took place at age 13; in 1920 he embarked upon an extensive European tour. Although he excelled in the music of Chopin, he also performed music written by his own contemporaries. Kodály composed his Dances of Marrosszek for him; Kentner gave regional premieres of Bartók's Piano Concerti No. 2 and No. 3.

In 1935, Kentner moved to London, eventually taking British citizenship. He undertook numerous recitals devoted to the music of a single composer. At the Edinburgh Festival, he performed the Beethoven Sonatas with Menuhin and assumed the role of leading advocate for the piano music of contemporary British composers. Kentner premiered works by Alan Rawsthorne, Michael Tippett, and William Walton, among others. Walton composed his Violin Sonata for Kentner and Menuhin and Tippett's Piano Concerto was accorded a commanding first performance by Kentner in 1956.

Kentner toured India with Menuhin in 1954 and performed in several Far East venues in 1956. On November 28, 1956, he finally appeared in the United States, winning highly complimentary reviews for his Town Hall recital. Both Howard Taubman and Paul Henry Lang hailed him as vivid and imaginative with technical gifts of the first order. Lang commented that he was "beyond doubt one of the finest pianists heard here in a long time." In addition to receiving adulatory remarks from critics, Kentner was honored with a CBE in 1978. On disc, Kentner's artistry is preserved in his solo recordings of Liszt, Chopin, and Brahms, and through his collaborations with Menuhin in the sonatas of Beethoven and Bach.