(UPDATE: The official LACO press release about this announcement and details about their 2014-15 season is HERE)
(UPDATE #2, April 26: Jeffrey Kahane’s full statement about his post-LACO plans is HERE)
Pianist and conductor Jeffrey Kahane has announced that the 2016-2017 season will be his last as Music Director of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. By that time, the L.A. native will have served as head of LACO for 20 years, longer than any other conductor.
He began his tenure at a time of crisis, with the orchestra just coming out of bankruptcy and still reeling from the experience; within a short time, he turned it around and restored the orchestra’s vigor and sense of purpose. As David Mermelstein described in 2006:
“Thanks to triage from some loyal donors, the most serious money problems were largely past when Kahane arrived at LACO in 1997, but the effects of the crisis lingered. Arts organizations are especially vulnerable to low morale. The absence of qualities like confidence, energy, optimism, and enthusiasm can be palpable in an orchestra. Audiences may not see the malaise, but they can undoubtedly hear it. Kahane says the group was “very downcast and frustrated” when he began his tenure: “It reminded me of a princess whose family had fallen on hard times and was looking back on former glory and forward toward uncertainty.”
His assessment is hard to reconcile with the assured and vigorous group he directs today. In March, for instance, Kahane led an all-Mozart piano concerto program at UCLA’s Royce Hall, conducting from the keyboard, as was the custom in Mozart’s time. . . . Nothing on the program disappointed, but the seldom-heard B-flat Concerto that opened the concert’s second half was especially fine. Actually, it was practically a revelation: the touching slow movement plumbing unanticipated depths, the finale brimming with dash and cheeky humor.”
(David Mermelstein: “The lightning conductor: why the L.A. Chamber Orchestra is again turning heads; expansion after bankruptcy,” Los Angeles Magazine, May 1, 2006)
Under Mr. Kahane’s watch, the orchestra has diversified its offerings, both artistically and geographically: in addition to its regular orchestral subscription concerts at The Alex Theatre in Glendale and at UCLA’s Royce Hall in Westwood, he added two smaller ensemble series in Downtown (“Baroque Conversations” at the Colburn School’s Zipper Hall) and Santa Monica (“Westside Connections,” a music and discussion series currently at the Moss Theatre at the New Roads School), plus added an annual trip back to its former home at the Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Mr. Kahane is stepping down to concentrate more on his solo piano and chamber music career, and has no plans to take another music directorship. He had also served as Music Director of both the Santa Rosa Symphony (1995-2006) and the Colorado Symphony (2005-2010). No successor has been named and a search committee has not yet been formed.
Fortunately, local audiences still have three years to see him regularly. In fact, there are three chances to see him within the next 7 days:
- He will be conducting LACO for this weekend’s concerts in Glendale and Westwood, featuring the world premiere of This Ease by Hannah Lash (the latest of the orchestra’s “Sound Investment” commissions), the Chopin 2nd Piano Concerto with Natasha Paremski as soloist, and the Symphony No. 102 of Haydn.
- Next week, he will perform the Goldberg Variations, Bach’s monumental work for keyboard, as part of LACO’s “Baroque Conversations” concerts.
Photo credit: courtesy of CMA Artists