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Music review: Jeffrey Kahane, Sasha Cooke and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra at the Alex Theatre in Glendale

March 20, 2011 |  1:51 pm

SashaThe audience gave an affectionate welcome to Jeffrey Kahane, music director of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, when he returned to his dual roles of pianist and conductor of the ensemble Saturday at the Alex Theatre in Glendale. For several months Kahane had been recuperating from a bout of mononucleosis, but he looked in strong health at the celebratory Bach program that also enlisted mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke.

Cooke, a Riverside native, had won praise as Kitty Oppenheimer at the Met’s premiere of John Adams’s “Doctor Atomic” in 2008 and was making her Los Angeles-area debut. An expectant mother, Cooke sang the solo cantata No. 170, “Vergnügte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust” (Contented Rest, Beloved Soul’s Desire), and the aria “Erbarme dich, mein Gott” (Have Mercy, My God) from the “St. Matthew Passion.” The five-part cantata has a number of distinguishing features, including grim and gritty descriptions of life on Earth and a central recitative that depicts lost souls aimlessly blown about. In both selections Cooke sang with fresh, vibrant, well-focused tone and sensitivity to the dramatic nuances of the text.

Kahane served as soloist and conductor in the Keyboard Concerto No. 6, a cat-and-mouse reworking of the Fourth Brandenburg Concerto, with the keyboardist alternately merging into the ensemble and standing out as an individual. Kahane was self-effacing, then dazzling in swooping arabesques tossed off with joyful flourish. He also led a sparkling Suite No. 3, or rather did not lead the famous Air, standing by to let concertmaster Margaret Batjer and her string colleagues perform a magical account of this famous movement.

For lack of an available dual keyboard organ, Kahane ingeniously reassigned the recitative accompaniment to David Shostac (flute) and Allan Vogel (oboe d’amore). Shostac and colleague Susan Greenberg were also the burbling flutists in the Keyboard Concerto.

— Chris Pasles

Photo: Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra musical director Jeffrey Kahane applauds the introduction of mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke. Credit: Bret Hartman/ For The Times