Kahane salutes Chopin

Times Staff Writer

Except for regular meetings at concerts of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, musical L.A. does not gather often. But on special occasions, the connoisseurs, along with other movers and shakers of the musical community, come together. Such an occasion was Jeffrey Kahane's Chopin recital in Zipper Concert Hall at the Colburn School of Performing Arts on Saturday night.

Kahane's extraordinary pianistic achievement, displayed extravagantly when he played all five Beethoven concertos with his Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra in December 2001, cannot be overstated.

Here, in a program encompassing three nocturnes, four mazurkas, the Scherzo No. 4, the Polonaise-Fantasy in A flat and the B-minor Sonata, his playing thrilled and soothed, titillated and enriched the Chopin lover with its authenticity and spontaneity and, simultaneously, with the kind of sculptured, thought-through readings one can expect only from the greatest artists.

This was, in the way any satisfying Chopin program ought to be, a series of ascending climaxes, including deep contrasts, large musical horizons and nuanced joys. It began with three exquisite yet easily followed readings of the nocturnes in B-flat, Opus 9, No. 1; in B major, Opus 9, No. 3, and the largely unfamiliar E-flat, Opus 55, No. 2. Following was Kahane's search and recovery of the great Polonaise-Fantasy, a major Chopin work the pianist described lovingly in his pungent, and beautifully written, annotations.

The E-major Scherzo, which emerged in a fluent whirlwind, paradoxically seemed more compact and clearly etched than other pianists make it.

Chopin's mazurkas are a chromatic scene that includes the morbid, the melancholy, the exuberant and the irrepressible. Kahane's choices probed this range profoundly. Most outstanding were the first -- Opus 24, No.4, in B-flat minor -- and last, Opus 56, No. 3, in C minor.

His performance of the B-minor Sonata took the breath away while revealing the work's many qualities. The centerpieces of this work are its dramatic final movements. Here, Kahane outlined the scenario and filled in all the details to stunning effect and with no loss of clarity.

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