Pianist and conductor Jeffrey Kahane brings the Sarasota Orchestra season to a close
Susan L. Rife, correspondent
Since pianist and conductor Jeffrey Kahane last visited Sarasota in February 2020 for a lecture and concert, he has been locked in his home in Altadena, Calif., Where his neighbors have been the beneficiaries. because his studio is in his converted garage, and he can open the side wall to share music at informal concerts.
But next weekend, finally, the artistic advisor of the Sarasota Orchestra and the director of the Sarasota Music Festival, will appear on stage with a chamber orchestra, conducting Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 14 from the bench.
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“There are a lot of trips that I was supposed to have taken that didn’t happen,” Kahane said in a Zoom interview last week at this same garage.
The concerto, by the way, was “the very first Mozart concerto that I played in public,” he said. “It’s a piece that has been part of my repertoire for longer than any other.”
The concerto was originally scheduled for an earlier concert in the season which, like so much else during the pandemic, required adjustments on the fly.
Kahane will finally join the Holley Hall lightweight ensemble for “Moments in Time”, the last concert of the 2020-2021 season. Also on the program are “Entr’Acte” by Pulitzer Prize winner Caroline Shaw and Grieg’s Holberg Suite.
Mozart’s concerto is the first in a series of six concerti that the composer wrote in the summer of 1784, although he had started the piece two years earlier and, for unknown reasons, had it. discarded.
“He wrote it for one of his students, Babette von Ployer, who must have been a remarkable pianist because he wrote not only that, but also the G major concerto for her,” Kahane said. “It is a work of immense charm and kindness. It is not a larger scale or more dramatic concerti, but it has a wonderful richness of melody and a second movement of absolutely ravishing beauty. The last movement displays its great sense of humor but also its mastery of counterpoint.
The concerto is one of four Mozart piano concertos that can be performed either as a string quartet or with woodwinds added, making it perfect for the orchestra’s COVID season in which only musicians who can perform masked appear on the stage.
“It was very smart of him; scores could be used and executed whether or not winds are available, ”Kahane said.
Mozart was 28 that summer, “at the height of his creativity, which he sustained for the rest of his short life,” Kahane said. “Each of these concerti is a masterpiece that has entered the repertoire. He then continued in the following years to write eight more concerti which are often considered “the greatest”, written for larger orchestras.
The three works in this week’s concerts span three centuries of music – Mozart in the 18th, Grieg in the 19th, and Shaw in the 21st. But Shaw’s and Grieg’s plays reflect the 18th century.
Shaw’s Entr’Acte, composed in 2011 for string quartet and reworked in 2014 for string orchestra, is “a beautiful kind of intertwining of the very old and the very new, which also takes place in the Holberg Suite”, composed in 1884 – 85, said Kahane.
Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg, said Kahane, “also looks back at 18th century music” in the Holberg Suite, written in honor of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Norwegian writer Ludvig Holberg. The five-movement suite includes five dances with titles “identical to titles one would find in an 18th-century suite in the days of Bach or Handel, contemporaries of Holberg,” Kahane said. “But just as Caroline Shaw writes in a contemporary language, Grieg writes in her own language, a romantic language, and also looks back at the forms, styles and gestures of the 18th century.
‘Moments in time’
Sarasota Orchestra. 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Saturday, 5:30 p.m. Friday and 4:00 p.m. May 9 at Holley Hall, Beatrice Friedman Symphony Center, 709 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Broadcast from May 13 to 18. For more information on tickets: 941-953-3434; sarasotaorchestra.org