Review: Fetes begin for Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra's Jeffrey Kahane

Review: Fetes begin for Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra's Jeffrey Kahane
Conductor Jeffrey Kahane, top right, leads the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra in Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 2 featuring pianist Natasha Paremski, left, at the Alex Theatre in Glendale. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

There was a sense of occasion at the Alex Theater in Glendale on Saturday night when Jeffrey Kahane led the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra in works by Hannah Lash, Chopin and Haydn.

The day before, Kahane announced he would be leaving his post after the 2016-17 season, making his run as music director an even 20 years, the longest in the ensemble's history.


The farewells began after intermission when the orchestra's executive director, Rachel Fine, announced that at the end of his tenure he would be named the orchestra's first conductor laureate.

Kahane acknowledged the audience's applause, then, conducting Haydn's big Symphony No. 102 from memory, showed us why he will be missed.

First, there was Kahane's effortless musicality and extraordinary communicative gifts. His rapport with the orchestra summoned striking orchestral sonorities, including Andrew Shulman's subtly shaded solo cello, along with muted trumpets and timpani, in the Adagio.

In Kahane's beautifully shaped first movement Largo, an apt hint of the elegiac emerged, and in the presto Finale, conductor and orchestra alternated surging energy with a string-quartet-like intimacy.

Best of all, Kahane conveyed a palpable affection for Haydn's symphony, the beginning of the composer's farewell to the musical life of London in the 1790s. He seemed to stop conducting altogether in the lovely third movement Minuet, listening intently as his remarkable ensemble reveled in Haydn's ingenuity and power.

The program began with the premiere of Hannah Lash's "This Ease," an atmospheric and melancholy 15-minute mood painting. Lash, 33, a sensitive orchestrator, applied vibrant dabs of color to an essentially Messiaen-like sound world, effectively using a palette including oboe, horns, percussion and harp, as well as an ethereal solo by concertmaster Margaret Batjer.

The concert's centerpiece was Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 2, performed by the Russian-born American pianist Natasha Paremski. Paremski, 26, brought out the score's introvert character. Chopin was 19 and sexually infatuated with a young singer when he wrote the concerto (actually, his first).

The confiding quality of Paremski's rendition channeled the intensity of a young man's love, or perhaps of a composer in love with the idea of being in love. She played the opening movement with poetic delicacy, producing a rounded tone. In the breathtaking Larghetto, she captured Chopin's near-operatic self-dramatizing. Though some may have wished for stronger contrasts in the mazurka-like Allegro finale, Paremski persuaded by staying in character. Throughout, Kahane and the ensemble provided sensitive support.

The pianist's encore, Prokofiev's finger-busting finale from his Sonata No. 7, displayed her virtuosic side.

The concert repeats Sunday at 7 p.m. at UCLA's Royce Hall. Patrons who arrive for the pre-concert talk will be treated to a performance by Kahane and Paremski of Schubert's Rondo in A for piano duet (D. 951).