I was interviewing the young composer, pianist, and singer Gabriel Kahane on the radio when I made a mistake. I accidentally conflated him with Timo Andres, a slightly younger but certainly related composer. Kahane took it in stride. Turns out, even if their music runs in wildly different directions, the two are kindred musical spirits. Kahane should require no introduction in these parts; he seems to play here every few months, most recently in October with the N.C. Symphony. His songs abound with the pathos of richly conceived characters. Andres, on the other hand, is more austere, preferring rhythmic thickets and minimalist bliss. A highly accomplished pianist, he, too, has performed with the N.C. Symphony in the past year as both a featured soloist and composer.
What they share is an abiding fascination with the weight of the Western classical canon. For this duo recital, they weave a peculiar musical sheaf—really, a mixtape—that binds Schumann and Bach with Andrew Norman, Thomas Adès, and their own music. Schubert's Impromptu in G-flat Major bumps into Kahane's "Where Are the Arms" so they cast each other into relief, complementary melodies undulating in different ways. A few songs by Britten and Ives flank the mixtape, and they are especially mellifluous in Kahane's unadorned baritone; classical art songs often get bogged down with operatic vibrato, so hearing them as simple songs is a welcome change. They'll play a few of György Kurtág's Bach chorale transcriptions, too, which sound wonderfully like toy pianos. And, of course, since they are musical buds, they wrote pieces for each other, trying to capture a vision of the other's sound.