The combination of exuberance, concentration and deep probing that has become the trademark quality of Jeffrey Kahane at the helm of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra came alive at the opening of the ensemble's 34th season, when Kahane led a Bach-Pierre Jalbert-Mozart program in the Alex Theatre in Glendale on Saturday night (scheduled to be repeated Sunday at UCLA's Royce Hall).
It became a festive occasion purely with the bold and tight performances led by the 46-year-old musician, who in 14 years of conducting experience has become a solid and masterly podium presence.
At the end of a demanding program, Kahane led a performance of Mozart's "Jupiter" Symphony sweeping in its continuity and abundant in telling details. Too many "Jupiters" emerge arcane, dull and too smart to communicate; this one glowed with spontaneity.
The first half of the agenda was dominated by young Hilary Hahn's world-class Bach playing. A poised veteran of 22, Hahn first offered a pristine but warm-toned reading of the E-major Violin Concerto, and followed up in the Concerto for Two Violins in D minor with chamber orchestra concertmaster Margaret Batjer. The tempos were bracing but articulate, the playing immaculate, the sense of rapport between soloists, conductor and orchestra thrilling. The participants will record the two Bach works this week for the Deutsche Grammophon label, and next spring will record two more concertos for the same release.
In between the two concertos, Kahane added another Bach texture in Anton von Webern's orchestral transcription of the Ricercare from "The Musical Offering."
The centerpiece of this program was Jalbert's moody and engrossing "Les espaces infinis," a work the 34-year old composer describes as "a quiet meditation on the nature of time and space." The piece, which begins and ends quietly but achieves a resonant climax at its center, holds the listener through a canny blend of instrumental colors and combinations, chromatic but not dissonant, and ultimately pleasing.
This season marks the beginning of Jalbert's tenure as the chamber orchestra's composer in residence.