"Sensitivity" is a word used constantly and often carelessly to describe a performer's connection with his or her art. Yet after pianist Bonnie Kellert's recital Saturday afternoon at Anderson House, "sensitivity" seems absolutely the right term with which to begin.
Kellert's sensitivity is multifaceted. Certainly she understands the compositions she chooses to perform, and her interpretations come from a very deep place within her musical soul. Saturday's program, an arduous voyage from Bach to late Beethoven to Debussy to Scriabin to Prokofiev, gave her the chance to exhibit her technical and expressive versatility. Bach's "Italian" Concerto became an essay in control and restraint, and Scriabin's "Prelude and Nocturne for the Left Hand" combined swoony lyricism with daring limitation, while Prokofiev's diabolic Sonata No. 3 allowed the pianist to make the music soar and mumble and scream. All this was rendered without a trace of excess flash or ponderousness; it came forth sincerely and--yes, that word again--sensitively.
Kellert's sensitivity revealed itself in yet another, highly unusual way. Just before she was to start Beethoven's Sonata, Op. 111, a deaf man approached the piano and requested--half speaking and half gesturing--whether he might place his hands on the strings to experience the vibrations and pauses. Kellert, gracious and flexible, complied, and played the rest of the concert with this fellow stationed at the other end of the instrument. Somehow this arrangement made her music even more accessible and moving.