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RECITAL REVIEW
Music at Oakmont / Sunday, April 10, 2016
Jeffrey Kahane, piano

Pianist Jeffrey Kahane

OAKMONT 25TH ANNIVERSARY CONCERT FEATURES KAHANE'S SCHUBERT AND CHOPIN

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 10, 2016

Jeffery Kahane spreads his musical largess widely. Since leaving a Sonoma County residence for Colorado the pianist has returned often for performances, the most recent the wildly successful ChamberFest series at the Green Music Center last summer.

April 10 found him again in Sonoma County, this time in recital before one of the largest attendances ever in Oakmont’s Berger Auditorium. It was a gala 25th Anniversary occasion for Music at Oakmont, and the artist mounted a probing performance of mostly familiar music to many raucous ovations.

The opening Rameau “Le Rappel des Oiseaux” and Couperin’s enigmatic “Les Barricades Mystérieuses” quickly disclosed the mood of the artist: mellow and elegant. This was not to be an afternoon of high drama, as I have heard from Mr. Kahane’s Beethoven readings. Le Rappel began judiciously, far slower than a pianist such as Gyorgy Sokolov chooses, and in the enigmatic Barricades the theme swelled beautifully out of a subdued and chaste fabric.

Two of the four pieces from Debussy’s 1890 Suite Bergamasque followed, the staccato chords of the Menuet clear and the legato touch in thirds and textures of the famous Clair de Lune were flowing and graceful. Audience appreciation of the familiar movement was instant and warm.

Three of Schubert’s four Op. 90 Impromptus (D. 899) ended the first half and were the recital’s highlight. Mr. Kahane adopted a detaché touch in parts of all three, all the better for the rippling and mostly halcyon music. The E-Flat Major was played fast but never above mezzo forte with deft pianistic modulating in the idle and subtly shaped phrases. Nothing was forced in the bucolic G-Flat Major, and in the concluding A-Flat Major Impromptu the artist’s impeccable right hand scales and poetic playing were rapturous. Anton Rubinstein called Schubert “sunshine in music,” and the pianist’s traversal of the Impromptus was radiant and refined.

After an extended intermission the mostly Chopin half began with two Mazurkas, the Op. 56, No 3 in C Minor, and the C-Sharp Minor, Op. 50, No. 3. If memory serves Mr. Kahane’s Mazurkas could border on the prosaic, but on this occasion each was beautifully shaped and even underplayed. The first had a lovely meandering quality, and the long C-Sharp Minor’s contrapuntal parts and many modulations were played with deep conviction. The ending notes of the Op. 50 were held until the line almost broke, but of course didn’t.

In his only words to the audience the artist announced substitution for a Chopin Waltz, Mendelssohn’s E-Flat Major (Op. 67) Song Without Words. A favorite work of his late mother Lori Kahane (an Oakmont resident), the playing stressed rich harmonic texture and nostalgia.

Of the final two extended Chopin, the Op. 61 Polonaise-Fantasie fared best, and the artist made it into a tone poem of probing beauty and harmonic growth. This late Chopin can sound loose structurally in lesser hands, but the artist was able to couple an improvisatory approach with lovely tonal shadings, while still holding the Polonaise rhythms.

I have heard Mr. Kahane play several times the great F Minor Ballade, Op. 52, and have never quite been on his wave length regarding its interpretation. As in the past he played the score energetically and accurately but without conveying its majesty and compelling emotional authority. In many places this music can be intensely Wagnerian (with themes that are vocal in character) as in the widely opposite recordings of Horowitz and Hofmann, but the pianist’s disposition today went in different directions. Applause was strong but not extended.

In a rare Oakmont turnabout there was no demand for an encore, and none was forthcoming.