Years Performed: 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2005, 2008
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 E minor Chopin 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 once more, and for an encore gave Chopin's Third Sonata in B minor in its entirety! In the years following the 1985 Chopin 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 of 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.
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 cancelling, he went out on stage and played what many consider to be the best recital he ever gave, one that launched his current reemergence as one of the major pianists of our century.