Jeffrey Kahane is one of the premier conductors and pianists of his generation. He is perhaps best known for his long-standing role as the music director for theLos Angeles Chamber Orchestra and for his work as one of the most in-demand accompanists alive today.
Born in West Los Angeles, Kahane started playing piano at the age of five. By time he was ten years old his interests had been slightly diverted as he taught himself the guitar and began playing in rock and folk bands with his peers, but his love for classical music would resurface a few years later when he was introduced to his new teacher, the notable Polish pianist and pedagogue Jakob Gimpel. Gimpel was immensely influential for the young Kahane and taught him, among other things, to appreciate an older approach to music, “a world where to speak of music was to speak of poetry, drama; of ethics; of narrative.” Kahane stated, years later: “I have no hesitation in confessing that I didn’t get [ Mozart’s concertos] as a teenager. It really wasn’t until I suppose in my late teens or early 20s that I began to see them as incredible dramas—as operas without words.”
Kahane attended the San Francisco Conservatory, where he studied classical piano but also experimented with jazz improvisation and, most notably, conducting. After graduating he rose to prominence through a series of successful competition appearances in his mid-20s. In 1981 Kahane was placed fourth in the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. Two years later he won the Arthur Rubinstein Competition in Israel, and he played his Carnegie Hall debut several months after that. He soon began to catch the attention of many of the industry’s most respected artists, and has been a favorite accompanist for musicians such as Yo-Yo Ma, Dawn Upshaw andJoshua Bell for many years.
In 1988 Kahane made his debut as a conductor when he was asked to lead a Mozart <> concerto from the piano at the Oregon Bach Festival. Since then, his conducting skills have been much sought after, and he has conducted many of the most prestigious orchestras in the United States including theNew York Philharmonic Orchestra and Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. However he is probably most famous for his work with theLos Angeles Chamber Orchestra (LACO), of which he became the musical director of in 1996. Kahane’s presence reinvigorated the orchestra, and he lead them on several world tours as well as a Carnegie Hall performance, and released many highly-regarded recordings including theBach violin concertos with Hilary Hahn as the soloist and the first ever complete collection of all ofMozart’s piano concertos by any American orchestra.
Kahane’s work is not limited to the accompanist’s bench and the conductor’s podium; he has also distinguished himself as a prominent soloist in his own right. He has performed as a soloist with major orchestras including the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonics, Cleveland and Philadelphia Orchestras, and the San Francisco Symphony. Although he will step down from his historic residency at the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra after the 2016-2017 season, Kahane continues to perform and conduct actively, bringing his trademark narrative interpretations of the great works of the piano and symphonic repertoire to venues around the world.
Header image courtesy of National Repertory Orchestra Long image by Richard Termine for the New York Times. Jeffrey Kahane leading theNew York Philharmonic from the harpsichord, reading from an iPad, at Avery Fisher Hall.