Live: Gabriel Kahane and Timo Andres Paint the Piano in Fresh Colors | Music

Live: Gabriel Kahane and Timo Andres Paint the Piano in Fresh Colors

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Gabriel Kahane - PHOTO COURTESY OF CAROLINA PERFORMING ARTS
  • Photo courtesy of Carolina Performing Arts
  • Gabriel Kahane
Gabriel Kahane and Timo Andres
Memorial Hall, Chapel Hill
Saturday, April 9, 2016


A few weeks ago, at the Big Ears music festival in Knoxville, Tennessee, I realized that I don’t pay much attention to pianos anymore. It is everywhere, of course, from big pop songs on the radio to department store background music and ringtones. But immersed in an hour-long performance by The Necks’ Chris Abrahams, I realized that the piano is something I hear a lot of, because it's ubiquitous, but rarely actually listen to.

Like Abrahams, Timo Andres and Gabriel Kahane had me thinking about the piano during their joint performance Saturday night at UNC. The two composers, both in their early thirties, delivered a dynamic and engaging set that Kahane likened to a chef’s tasting menu, in a program that moved quickly as the duo clipped along through three centuries. A Bach piece dated back to the early 1700s, while  Kahane and Andres wrote the newest selections themselves earlier this year.

In fact, they had written these two, Works on Paper and Mirror Songs, for each other. Kahane’s Works on Paper, performed by Andres, was broken into three even shorter parts, which included a modified take on Kahane’s “Veda (1 Pierce Dr.)” from his 2014 LP, The Ambassador. For Kahane, Andrea Cohen’s poem “String Theory” formed the foundation of Andres’s Mirror Songs. Cohen’s poetry appeared again in Andres’s beautiful “To Whom it May Concern.”

The ninety-minute program contained about twenty pieces, meaning the audience was treated to a tapestry of miniature works. Schumann’s “Im Rhein, im heiligen Strome” felt stiff against Schubert’s mellifluous “Impromptu in G-flat Major, D.899, No. 3,” while the duo’s update to Kahane’s 2009 song “Where Are the Arms” felt familiar.

Abrahams’ set at the piano the week before was intense and immersive. This was the opposite approach , though, offering nearly two dozen small works as a refreshing reminder of the piano’s beauty and power and versatility. It can sound delicate and frail or muster a low roar. Andres and Kahane aren’t ripping apart the world of piano-driven music; with their careful and charming presentation, they simply made it a delight. 


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