Saturday, March 26, 2011

Kahane Duo Dazzles Denver

“Crossover” concerts usually fail, but Friday night’s blended genre concert at Denver’s Newman Center was a resounding success, a convincing presentation of indie pop and standard classical. That the two performers were father and son warmly enriched the evening.

While local audiences are familiar with the fine pianist and conductor Jeffery Kahane (who was Music Director of the Colorado Symphony for years), I suspect the big discovery of the night was his multi-talented son Gabriel.

Gabriel and Jeffrey opened with Bach effectively arranged by György Kurtág for two-pianos, which easily segued into a Gabriel composition.

Gabriel next discussed “Chuck” Ives, seeing him as a “father of avant-garde” and one of the earliest creators of mashups. He touchingly sang two Ives songs during the concert, along with Samuel Barber’s charming “Pangur” song from his Hermit Cycle.

The longest set of the intermission-less concert was prefaced by Jeffrey recalling the original Schubertiade events, where the gang gathered to play a potpourri of Schubert's music, along with other music, poetry readings, dancing, etc. Whereupon father and son performed their own such mini event. Jeffery alternated Schubert Impromptus with Gabriel performing his own engaging songs (accompanying himself on both piano and guitar), including “Durrants,” “North Adams” (about a father and son walking in the woods) from his eponymous 2008 debut CD, as well as “LA.”

Jeffrey then performed the meaty, engaging Django: Tiny Variations on a Big Dog, written by Gabriel for him and premiered at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, described by The New York Times as “most striking, if only for the virtuosity and varied stylistic sensibility it demanded.”

Gabriel also performed a song from his Craigslist Lieder collection, which initially brought him recognition as an emerging talent. This tag-team concluded the concert with an arrangement of a traditional tune by Benjamin Britten, whom apparently they both revere.

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This first-ever such concert was conjured up by mastermind Steve Seifert, the imaginative, adventurous Executive Director of Newman Center Presents.

I don’t recall ever experiencing a concert with this type of diversified richness, merging sophisticated pop with classical, featuring an abundantly talented father and son duo. Some comments from Gabriel in the program notes help explain his evolution, remarking that he grew up “amidst snippets of Brahms 2nd Piano Concert and Mozart K. 482, Paul Simon's Graceland and the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper.” It all comes together because of certain intrinsic values that transcend genre, such as “attention to solid architecture, quality of sound, and above all, emotional integrity.”

Even more impressive is that we really only saw the indie pop side of Gabriel, who also composes “serious” new music. The Kronos Quartet commissioned a string quartet which will debut in May, and that same month, a work commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic will also debut, to be conducted by John Adams.

Along the way, Gabriel has also performed with bluegrass mandolinist Chris Thile and singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright, as well as pianist Jeremy Denk and bass-baritone Thomas Quasthoff. And he is much in demand as a music theater composer.

I sure hope he can successfully juggle all the above.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Phil Kline Workshop

Make Music New York and MATA have announced a new Call-For-Proposals for a workshop, led by Phil Kline, to explore new participatory outdoor soundworks. Ten composers will be chosen for the workshop, which will discuss feasibility, creativity, and public art in general. The workshop will take place on May 10 during the 2011 MATA Festival, and will be open to the public.

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In the month after the workshop, participating composers will refine their ideas and submit revised proposals. Each proposal will be showcased on the MATA website, and MATA will choose one to produce in December 2011, as part of a new winter festival, MAKE MUSIC WINTER, inspired by Phil Kline’s legendary Unsilent Night.

The proposal deadline is April 1, 2011. Click here for more info.

Kline's only surround sound recording, Around the World in a Daze, was commissioned and released by Starkland. Over a dozen publications such as The New York Times, Stereophile, and The New Yorker have called this DVD "sensational... ear-opening adventures... extraordinary" and much more.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Persichetti CD Praised at American Record Guide

Another fine review of our Persichetti piano CD has appeared in the new issue of American Record Guide.

Pianist Ellen Burmeister "gives fine accounts of these pieces," writes Allen Gimbel, adding that "this release will be of interest to all students of this music." He also remarks that Piano Sonata 10 is "one of the great American piano sonatas."

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It's a nice addition to the other enthusiastic reviews that have appeared at Audiophile Audition and Lucid Culture.

Read more about this Starkland CD.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Other Minds wrapup

Some highlights for me at the recent Other Minds festival are:

Louis Andriessen: An excellent performance of his chamber piece Zilver; several smaller pieces reflected a diversity I didn't know about; and his impressive piano improv work with vocalist Cristina Zavalloni.

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Louis Andriessen and Tom Steenland

The strongly spatial experience of hearing David A. Jaffe's piece (a tribute to Henry Brant), which used instruments spread throughout the hall, all triggered via Trimpin electro-mechanical expertise.

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Henry Brant chimes, deployed by Trimpin

Monica Germino commanded the stage with her excellent violin playing, and at times, singing too.

Agata Zubel displayed amazing extended vocalizations and convincing compositional skills in her Cascando and Parlando works.

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Agata Zubel

And pianist Sarah Cahill again reminded us what a special talent she is in her fine performance of Kyle Gann's Time Does Not Exist.

We also heard impressive, virtuosic performances from Bali double-necked guitarist Balawan, jazz pianist Jason Moran, avant guitarist Fred Frith, and the Dutch hyper-drummer Han Bennink.

We are lucky to live in an age of so many prodigiously talented performers.