October 9, 2014

Jeff of all trades: Jeffrey Kahane to conduct, play piano, at RPO

Jeffrey Kahane
One of the most exciting things about a live orchestra performance is seeing the talented musicians at their craft. Even if you have no understanding of how to play the violin or the oboe, it’s clear that what the musicians are accomplishing on their instruments is no easy feat. Now, imagine one of these talented performers is also the conductor. Tonight and Saturday night, California-based guest artist Jeffrey Kahane will not only play Ravel’s Piano Concerto, but he will also lead the RPO through a program that includes Gershwin, Ligeti, and Kodály.

“It’s definitely a challenge to switch gears, but I have been doing this for about 25 years” said Kahane, who started his career as a pianist over 30 years ago. “My experience is that orchestras find it to be a refreshing change of pace as they get to have the experience of having the conductor actually playing with them, in addition to leading.”

Kahane is no stranger to Rochester or performing with the RPO. From 1988-1995, he was on the piano faculty for the Eastman School of Music. Since making his RPO debut performing Bartok’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in 1986, Kahane has appeared with the RPO three other times, most recently as guest conductor/pianist in October 2001.

“There's a lot of multi-tasking involved,” said Kahane of his dual roles onstage. “It requires a great deal of both physical coordination and mental agility, but it's also a great deal of fun when working with an orchestra as fine as the RPO.”

While Kahane says he can’t pick a favorite musical moment from this weekend’s program, he refers to the slow movement of the Ravel Concerto as “one of the most perfect, most beautiful and most moving things in the whole repertoire.” As for an overall theme that connects the program, Kahane notes that Ravel was influenced by the sounds of American jazz while composing his Concerto (which premiered in Paris in 1932), making it the perfect segue for Gershwin’s An American in Paris. The second half of the program features two works by Hungarian composers influenced by folk music: Ligeti’s Romanian Concerto and Kodály's Háry János Suite, the latter featuring guest performer Chester Englander on the cimbalom, a rare percussion instrument with Hungarian ties that is similar to a hammered dulcimer.

"The Kodály is a spectacular orchestral showcase and very exciting for the audience," said Kahane. "I'm excited to do it and it's great to be back in Rochester!"

For more information on this concert or to buy tickets, visit rpo.org

P.S. For more on the cimbalom, stay tuned to the RPO on Facebook for an exclusive interview and demo of this instrument with Percussionist Chester Englander!

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