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A family trait of making music

Gabriel Kahane follows his father Jeffrey Kahane's footsteps into the world of concert performance and composition.

April 28, 2012|By Lynne Heffley
  • Gabriel Kahane performs his West Coast premiere of "Crane Palimpsest."
Gabriel Kahane performs his West Coast premiere of "Crane… (Mariah Tauger /…)

If conductor Jeffrey Kahane led the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra with even more vim and vigor than usual during last weekend's concert at the Alex Theatre in Glendale, he had good reason.

The program of new and familiar music on Saturday, April 21 offered not only a celebratory wind up to the deeply respected Kahane's 15th anniversary season as LACO's music director — with the group's original founder, Sir Neville Marriner, in attendance — it marked the first time that he had conducted an orchestral work by his son, Gabriel Kahane, a critically acclaimed, rising young composer, singer-songwriter and musician.

“Crane Palimpsest,” the Brooklyn-based younger Kahane's first work for full orchestra, was the evocative centerpiece of the concert. An American Composers Orchestra co-commission that premiered at Carnegie Hall in March, it was inspired by the preamble to “The Bridge,” American poet Hart Crane's epic ode to the Brooklyn Bridge and New York.

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Essentially a song cycle, “Crane Palimpsest” interweaves the opening section of Crane's “To Brooklyn Bridge” with songs written and sung by its 30-year-old composer, a compelling vocalist who also performed on piano and guitar during the piece in a seamless back-and-forth shift between instruments.

The caring and respect between father and son was clear throughout the well-received performance, which ended with the pair exchanging a warm embrace. As an encore, the younger Kahane played and sang the haunting title song of his new pop album, “Where Are the Arms,” that, like his other creative endeavors, has earned critical praise.

Kahane senior also led the orchestra in dynamic performances of two bookend pieces: Charles Ives' “Three Places in New England” — a LACO first — and Haydn's Symphony No. 104, one of the orchestra's signature offerings.

Ives' ode to place that opened the concert was particularly apt. With his incorporation of themes from folk, jazz, popular and brass band music into a classical vernacular, “Ives was very much interested in breaking down the boundaries between popular idioms and what we call classical music,” Jeffrey Kahane noted during an interview prior to the concert.

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