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KEMAL GEKIC

Born in Split, Croatia in 1962, Gekic accurately picked 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 Professor 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 that 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 played in the Chopin 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, and 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.

During the early 1990s 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 fruit of this retreat was his 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.


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