Friday, April 05, 2013

Timo Andres and Gabriel Kahane give "mixage" recital at Library of Congress in Washington


The Nationals may have left town for the weekend (not for the best, I hear), but maybe the “Yankees” paid us a visit, at least in the Coolidge Auditorium in the Jefferson Building (the main one) of the Library of Congress in Washington DC, one block from the Supreme Court.

I went to a few Sunday night concerts at the Library when I was a patient at NIH in 1962. It’s different now.  You have to go through security to go in, and even have bags checked as you leave.  This is the ultra “public library” (main blog, Feb. 23).

The artists in this recital were Timo Andres (composer and pianist) and Gabriel Kahane (composer, vocalist and pianist).  The concert was called “Songs of America” but there as a bit of the UK and Germany thrown in.

The concert started with a four-hands duet of the Bach Chorale Prelude “O Lamm Gottes, BWV 618). The pianists used the piano on the left side, which had a brighter sound. Andres got an incredible ringing tone from the treble.  The transcription is by Gyorgy Kurtag.  One of these pianos had belonged to George Gershwin (not sure, I think the one on the right). 
  
Next Kahane sung for selections from Benjamin Britten’s “Fold Song Arrangements”.

What would follow was a long mixage, with Andres performing on the left and Kahane on the right.  Kahane sung with all his pieces. 

Much of Timo Andres’s music  (including his own) was familiar to me and has been reviewed before.  He offered all three Mazurkas by Tomas Ades, one Schumann Forest Scene, the G-flat Impromptu (rather Aeolian and Chopin-like) by Franz Schubert, and his own “At the River”, and two selections from “It Takes a Long Time to Become a Good Composer” : the bouncy “Pierrot on 88th Street” (yup, Schoenberg, “in the Moonlight” with no “do me”); and the “Please Let Me Sleep”, a nice lullaby that is becoming familiar to my ear.  Kahanes pieces included n his own“Merritt Parkway” and “North Adams”, “Sides Streets”, a Schumann Dichterlieb, two songs from his own “Craigslistlieder”  (does Kahane know the film “Craigslist Joe”, on my Movies blog Jan. 20, 2013), his own  “Where are the Arms?”, and Andrew Norman’s “Don’t Even Listen”.  (They used to say at the Ninth Street Center in NYC, “Bill doesn’t listen.”)
The recital closed with three songs by Charles Ives, Kahane singing (and there was an Ives encore), and another Kurtag Bach transcription, a “Sonatina” based on the cantata “Gottes Zeit ist der allerbeste Zeit”, BWV 106, a bit more contemporary sounding.

Kahane is said to compose by hand, without a computer – the Washington Post featured a picture of him with his cat at the piano (link to story by Anne Midgette). The feline looks ready to play the piano like "Nora" on YouTube. I bet that when he returns to his Brooklyn apartment from a concert, that cat commands 100% of his attention at the door.  

Kahane’s style is popular, clubby, and informal, without taking itself too seriously. It's said to be a "mix" of genres.  It isn’t grandiose, like Josh Groban or even Reid Ewing (being "brave", or traveling into outer space, or writing songs that express "charisma").  Who among all of these musicians could act along Andy Samberg on SNL? (Justin Timberlake needs some competition from the classical world that even nurtured him at one time.)

A new string quartet by Andres will be performed by the Attacca Quartet at the same venue on May 22.  I haven't heard his Piano Quintet yet (performed by Jonathan Biss) and hope it will be available on CD, MP3, Amazon, etc.  soon.

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