In 2014, Jeffrey Kahane announced that he was going to step down as musical director of the LA Chamber Orchestra in 2017, his 20th anniversary with the orchestra. The time has come; his final concerts are Saturday, May 20, and Sunday, May 21.
A couple weeks ago, at Kahane's music studio at his home in Altadena, I sat chair-to-music bench with him to talk about leaving the job. Here are some highlights of our conversation.
We talked a couple years ago when it was announced that you were leaving ... Have you changed your mind?
(LAUGHING) No. I haven't changed my mind.
Have you ever given up something this big?
Well, this is the third orchestral position I've had. I was music director of the Santa Rosa Symphony for almost 11 years. I was music director of the Colorado Symphony in Denver for five years. But 20 years is a very long time to do anything, and my relationship with this orchestra is therefore of a different nature. Los Angeles is the city in which I grew up and I think the answer to your question is no, I have never given up anything this big.
Have you mentally prepared for what comes after?
That's a long process. It was almost four years ago that I decided, because I wanted the orchestra to have plenty of time to do a proper search, so I've had a lot of time to prepare, but I think it's incredibly difficult to prepare for something this big.
Many people have said, 'So what are you going to do now that you're retiring?' and I laugh because I don't know why people would think I'm retiring. I'm not retiring; I just happen to not be doing the LA Chamber Orchestra anymore. I have a brand new position as the music director at the Sarasota Music Festival in Florida, I have a tremendously full schedule as a guest conductor and a soloist, I'm on the faculty at USC teaching piano and other things. So my life is just as busy as its ever been. But there will be a great spiritual, emotional void where the LA Chamber Orchestra has been for 20 years.
It's a very bittersweet time. I look at where the orchestra is now, compared to where it was when I took over 20 years ago, and there is no one who knows the orchestra who would not say that tt is possibly in the best shape its ever been, and it is certainly in infinitely greater shape than it was 20 years ago because I took over a very troubled organization. It was an organization that had been through very difficult financial struggles.
We accomplished things some people believed would never happen. We went to Carnegie Hall, we did a major European tour, we made recordings, but most importantly we've established an incredibly loyal and enthusiastic base of supporters.
And the Orchestra sounds like a million dollars right now.
By the way, it's difficult to express on the radio how beautiful Kahane's grand piano is. It's a Fazioli, handmade in Italy. Just look at the beauty of the wood on the inside ...
And woodworkers in the audience will get how much work it is to bring such a depth to the finish of the case:
Tickets are still available for Jeffrey Kahane's farewell concerts with the LA Chamber Orchestra. As usual, they play on the East and West Sides: Saturday, May 20 at 8pm at the Alex Theatre in Glendale; and Sunday, May 21 at 7pm at Royce Hall.
The program: The world premiere of the LACO commission by Christopher Cerrone, "There Be Singing. Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 27 in B-flat major. Schubert's Symphony No. 9 in C major, “The Great.”