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LA Chamber Orchestra's Jeffrey Kahane on stepping down, Bach, and the Clippers

Jeffrey Kahane of LACO
Jeffrey Kahane of LACO
Michael Burke

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KPCC's John Rabe talks with LA Chamber Orchestra's Jeffrey Kahane about his decision to step down as LACO's musical director, and Thursday's solo concert: Bach's "Goldberg Variations."

It's going to be a long goodbye: In announcing its new concert season last week, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra also announced that Jeffrey Kahane will step down as music director at the end of the 2016-2017 season, when Kahane will mark 20 years in the job.

Maestro Kahane has helped turn LACO back into a world class institution, known for its mastery of the classical repertoire, support of new compositions, and innovative programming.

Go see LACO's Westside Connections concert May 15 with Arthur Rubinstein's son

But he took over the orchestra in the mid-1990s during some very dark days, just after it emerged from bankruptcy. The players then had to deal with distracting, dispiriting outside pressures ... just like another professional team of players did in the last few days: The LA Clippers.

"I really like the fact that you draw the analogy between the a sports team and a chamber orchestra, particularly a chamber orchestra, because the kind of communication, cooperation, commitment to absolutele, ferocious standards of excellent, those are all things we share with a great sports team. And the other thing we share is that whatever is going on off the court, outside the concert hall, we leave it behind, once we get out there."

The orchestra is light on its feet in another way: it solves LA's traffic problem by performing its concerts at half a dozen venues across the Southland. People on the West Side don't want to go to Disney Hall because of the traffic. People on the East side don't want to go to the Geffen Playhouse because traffic is a mess. But LACO performs regularly in Pasadena, Glendale, UCLA, downtown, and Santa Monica.

(An early Bach selfie.)

Kahane often leads the chamber orchestra from the piano, his first love, and Thursday night he performs a solo work, Bach's "Goldberg Variations," at Zipper Hall in downtown LA's Colburn School. Listen to our interview as he "breaks it down," showing us at the piano how Bach constructed this masterpiece ... and hear Rabe play three notes with Kahane.

After the 2016-17 season, Kahane becomes LACO's Music Director Laureate.