jeffrey kahane tackles 10 questions

dear beaver readers, this saturday and sunday the band welcomes one of the planet’s most accomplished pianists: jeffrey kahane.  i knew he was the cream of the crop when it came to playing piano (and conducting), but i had no idea he was such a great writer as well!  read on, and see if you don’t agree…

maestro, you’ll be playing mozart’s piano concerto #25 with the band ~ how would you describe this music?

It’s one of the grandest and noblest pieces of music from the latter part of the 18th century.  It’s one of the most “symphonic” of all of Mozart’s concertos, meaning that it is as much a piece about the orchestra as it is about the solo piano, and the solo wind instruments in particular have an amazingly rich role. Like all of Mozart’s later piano concertos, which are among the supreme miracles of music, it is a kind of instrumental drama, in which every instrument is an actor.  I’ve played the piece probably close to 100 times over the last 30 years and never get tired of it.

ooh, you’re already giving the beaver goosebumps!  i see the fifth symphony of ralph vaughan williams opens up the program – any thoughts on pairing this work with mozart?

You can pair Mozart with almost anything….

true ‘nuff.  hey, i thought i read you performed all of mozart’s piano concertos with the los angeles chamber orchestra.  is that true?!

I performed them over the course of two and a half seasons.  It was a daunting task, and took a tremendous amount of concentration, physical discipline, and will.  But it was also one of the most inspiring and moving things I’ve ever experienced.  There is no more magical and fascinating body of repertoire in all of Western music than the Mozart piano concertos, and the opportunity to survey the whole collection with such a great group of musicians was something I’ll never forget.

i can’t even imagine… so sweet!  if you could invite 3 composers for dinner, who would you choose and where would you go?

Off the top of my head, I’d pick Gyorgy Ligeti, Hector Berlioz, and Gustav Mahler, because I think they’d be so incredibly interesting to talk with.  There are other composers I’d love to meet just as much, but I have the feeling that they wouldn’t be great dinner companions since they were not noted for being particularly sociable (Beethoven for example, or Brahms, or Bach).  I have no idea where I would go, but it would be someplace that had no background music!

oh man… you are rackin’ up some briliant responses here!  um, let’s see… i know this is like a piano 101 question, but could you explain what a trill is and how the heck you get your fingers to play them?

A trill is simply the very rapid alternation of two notes.  For most musicians, they either come easily or they don’t.  It is possible to practice them and improve, but it’s one of those physical things that you’re either good at or you’re not.  There’s nothing impossible or even difficult about them if you happen to be someone to whom they come fairly naturally.

along with tickling the ivories, you also do a fair amount of conducting… did you receive any instruction or did you just kinda start doing it?

I had almost no training in conducting.  I took one semester of conducting in school, but I learned by doing it, which is the way almost all conductors in the past learned.  It is only relatively recently that people have even been able to study conducting in an academic environment, and the reality is that the only way to really learn how to conduct a professional orchestra is to get on a podium in front of real live professional musicians.

gulp!  well, speaking of live professional musicians, what’s so great about experiencing classical music live?

When great music is played by great musicians, there is nothing more thrilling in the world than being in the physical presence of that and sharing it with others.  It can be as viscerally exciting as any sports event, and it is also something that touches us and enriches our sense of what life is about in a way that few other things in life can do.

i can’t tell you how much i’m enjoying your answers… amen to all of ‘em!  so, i’ve noticed most of the time guest soloists with the orchestra do not use sheet music ~ is it considered cheating to have the music in front of you?

No, it’s not.  Some people never use music, some people do sometimes, and some people always do.  Most soloists prefer to play without the music because it’s very freeing to not have to read the score and rely on it.  But there have been some very great soloists who have decided at some point in their lives that they simply preferred to have the music in front of them.

if i could buy you a drink, what would you order?

Mineral water with lime.

that actually sounds really good right now.  alright, before i let you go, i’m wondering what you’re expecting from the band?

I’m expecting a tremendously high level of music-making and great intensity.  I have never worked with Maestro Kalmar, but I know that he is a musician of the highest caliber so I look forward to this immensely.

yowza ~ me too!  oh my, i am really, really, really looking forward to hearing you bring mozart to life saturday night.  maestro jeffrey: for all the time and energy you put into your responses, thanks a million!


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