Equally at home at the keyboard or on the podium, Conductor Laureate Jeffrey Kahane has established an international reputation as a truly versatile artist, recognized by audiences around the world for his mastery of a diverse repertoire ranging from Bach, Mozart and Beethoven to Gershwin, Golijov and John Adams.

Jeffrey Kahane’s improvisation on Samuel A. Ward’s “America the Beautiful” has proven one of the timeliest and thought-provoking encores in the classical music world. Rick Schultz, classical music critic for the LA Times, wrote that Kahane’s 2016 performance of the work was “…a very odd encore. Not more Mozart or a Beethoven bagatelle. Instead, Kahane performed his own improvised variations on ‘America the Beautiful.’”

Kahane’s mournful re-harmonization radically alters the tone of the work — instead of banner-waving nostalgia, Kahane imbues each phrase with anguish.

More about “America the Beautiful”

Katharine Lee Bates (August 12, 1859 – March 28, 1929) was a prolific American writer, college professor, scholar, and social activist.

The lyrics to “America the Beautiful” were written by Katharine Lee Bates, and the music was composed by church organist and choirmaster Ward.

Bates had taken a train to Colorado to teach a short summer school session at Colorado College. At the time, she was an English professor at Wellesley College. The sights on her trip inspired her, and found their way into a poem. Bates titled “Pikes Peak”. Imagine the majestic wheat fields or a panoramic view of the Great Plains from high atop Pikes Peak.

“Pikes Peak” was published two years later — to commemorate the Fourth of July — and quickly caught the public’s fancy.

More about this performance

This performance by Kahane was filmed at the Tippet Rise Art Center, in The Olivier Music Barn, on August 11, 2017.

Tippet Rise Art Center is an arts venue located on an 12,000 acre working ranch in southcentral Montana, north of Yellowstone National Park. Established in 2016, the art center presents concerts by world-renowned classical musicians and exhibits large-scale contemporary outdoor sculptures.

Film Director: Kathy Kasic
Cinematographers: Sarah Lanier, Dandan Liu, Emily Rund
Lighting Designer: Zach Hamersley
Editor: Claude DeMoss
Assistant Editor: Evangeline Koonce
Music Consultant: Devanney Haruta
Sound Recording: Monica Bolles, Monte Nickles
Sound Editor: Joe Shepard
Sound Mastering: Dominick Maita