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Father-son team explores ‘legacies’ at Newman Center

As it nears the end of its “Legacies”-themed season, the Newman Center Presents series is gearing up for a show that is practically a definition of the word “legacy.”

On March 25, acclaimed pianist and conductor Jeffrey Kahane — former music director of the Colorado Symphony Orchestra — will share the Newman Center stage with his son, Gabriel Kahane, a pianist, composer and singer who has collaborated with contemporary artists including Sufjan Stevens and Rufus Wainwright.

“I challenged them to create a show that they could do together, as opposed to just presenting either one by himself,” says Newman Center Executive Director Steve Seifert. “[I wanted to] compare and contrast, get their creative juices going. They thought it was a great idea and happily did that. Jeffrey will play in recital by himself and Gabriel will do something by himself, then the two of them will get together and collaborate.”

It’s a safe bet Jeffrey Kahane will perform works from the classical repertoire that earned him recognition in the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition and the Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Competition early in his career, but Gabriel is more of a wild card. Often mentioned in the same breath as musical mavericks like Nico Muhly, Caleb Burhans and Chris Thile, he blends the worlds of classical, pop, jazz, show tunes and art songs. At one recent concert he mashed up Robert Schumann’s “Ich Grolle Nicht” and Cee-Lo’s “F___ You”; and his biggest musical claim to fame is a cycle of art songs featuring text from real Craigslist “Missed Connections” ads.

“If you look at the long-term trajectory of the relationship between the vernacular and concert music, it’s always been in dialogue,” Gabriel Kahane told The Huffington Post earlier this month. He said he sees himself as part of “a return to the era when composers were expected to perform, and they were expected to be in dialogue with everything around them, meaning popular culture, and transforming that experience of popular culture into something that’s perhaps heightened.”

Jeffrey and Gabriel Kahane don’t perform together often, but they do collaborate on occasion, including a 2009 concert at New York’s Alice Tully Hall. The elder Kahane asked his son to compose an etude inspired by Django, the family dog; what resulted was “Django: Tiny Variations on a Big Dog,” a set of miniature variations noted for its complexity.

“I called him and said, ‘Gabe, this is unbelievably difficult,’” Jeffrey Kahane told The New York Times in 2009. “And he said, ‘You’re just used to having everything be easy.’ I called him again after another 15 hours of working on it, and I said, ‘Are you sure you’re not mad at me about something?’ I did finally get it, and now it’s a joy to play.”

“Like Father, Like Son?,” featuring Jeffrey Kahane and Gabriel Kahane, begins at 7:30 p.m. March 25 in DU’s Newman Center, 2344 E. Iliff Ave. A free “Behind the Curtain” lecture begins at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $32–$48; visit for more information. The Kahanes also will perform at the Lamont School of Music’s All School Convocation from 2:30–3:30 p.m. March 25; admission is free and the concert is open to the public.

Remaining shows in the Newman Center Presents 2010–11 series are Alarm Will Sound’s “1969” — a concert that combines music, imagery and spoken word to investigate the connections between classical and rock music in the late 1960s — on April 23, and Spanish dance troupe Soledad Barrio and Noche Flamenca on May 6.

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