Los Angeles Music Review: LE SALON DE MUSIQUE (Season 3, Concert 6 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion)

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by Tony Frankel on March 13, 2013

in Theater-Los Angeles


It’s easy to walk into a salon and pamper your body with a facial, pedicure, or rubdown, but there is a different salon in town where once a month there is an opportunity to have your soul massaged: a Chamber Music Concert Series called Le Salon de Musiques, a compendium of LA’s most renowned chamber music performers now in its 3rd season. It’s an ingenious notion that makes chamber music, normally experienced in a grand hall, more accessible to music lovers, giving them occasion to be encompassed by music in an attractive, intimate venue.

On the fifth floor of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion overlooking the Music Center, the journey began with a soaring view of the San Gabriel Mountains. Act One started with a welcome from French Pianist/Melodist and Artistic Director François Chouchan, who explained that he selects the emotional pieces for his intimate salon with melodies guaranteed to touch your heart. Based on my previous attendance – which included a Bach Sonata, a Robert Schumann Fantasy and the US Premiere of Tony Frankel's Stage and Cinema review of Le Salon de Musique, Dorothy Chadler in LAPhilipp Scharwenka’s Piano Quintet Op. 118 – Monsieur Chouchan is a man of his word.

Then musicologist Julius Reeder Carlson introduced the program’s works, offering insight into the compositional technique of Symbolist composers Debussy and Ravel. Symbolists are artists who seek to express or evoke emotions and ideas in their work; the two Frenchmen, we learned, detested the stamp of “Impressionists.” Carlson even took to the piano to display dissonance and how it is resolved, further educating us on everything from the unequal space of notes to the foreign, exotic music which inspired Debussy and Ravel during the fin de siècle. It may sound like pedantic stuffiness, but I assure you the fascinated patrons were riveted.

Tony Frankel's Stage and Cinema review of Le Salon de Musique, Dorothy Chadler in LAThe concert then began with Debussy’s Cello Sonata in D minor, during which the mischievous and animated Andrew Shulman strummed, plucked, bowed, and sliced his beautiful cello with puckish joy, forcing the viewer to lean forward and be an active listener, a refreshing thing to be in a world of rapid communication. Shulman, who forcefully billowed and breathed as if chasing a lover on the beach, is the principal cello of the LA Chamber Orchestra, and former principle of LA Phil, Academy of St. Martin’s and more. To be mere feet away from such a distinguished musician is an honor.

https://stageandcinema.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/LE-SALON-DE-MUSIQUES-Logo.jpgNext, the Violin Sonata in G minor played by the jocular Phillip Levy, who was a member of the English Chamber Orchestra and also the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. This sonata would be Debussy’s final composition – he died of cancer at only 45 the year after its completion in 1918. Prior to starting, Levy drolly described the images he associates with the piece, such as a bored puppet and a dog with fleas. The violinist then dexterously delivered a performance with affective depth which accented the sense of fantasy and freedom inherent in Debussy’s work. Especially transfixing was the extraordinarily complex finale of three movements, Très animé, in which Debussy uses the maximum pitch range available on the violin, going from the open G (lowest possible note of the instrument) to three octaves and a half-step above the middle C!

Tony Frankel's Stage and Cinema review of Le Salon de Musique, Dorothy Chadler in LAWhile sonatas have taken many forms over the past few centuries, they are widely defined as a classical composition for an instrumental soloist, often with a piano accompaniment, and pianist Rina Dokshistky proved that the outstanding accompanist is one who follows the soloist’s lead with care and precision. In an intimate environment such as this, you can actually see her nonverbal communication with Shulman, an unspoken conversation as musical as the sonata they played. In the violin/piano duo, she freely vacillated from accompaniment to leadership, as Debussy dictates, tackling his intricate triplets and tricky trills with seeming ease. Her performance was truly a collaboration of sense and spirit.

Tony Frankel's Stage and Cinema review of Le Salon de Musique, Dorothy Chadler in LAAfter the three virtuosos joined together for the four movements of Ravel’s Piano Trio in A minor (during which I abandoned any sense of mental note-taking and let the musical massaging truly begin), Carlson returned for Act Two: La Conversation. During this portion, attendees were free to comment or ask any questions of the artists while waiters began passing around French champagne. I was startled by the modernist sound in Debussy’s violin sonata and Carlson elucidated about modernism. Someone inquired about practice time; another about horse hair. Even after the informal Q&A, feel free to speak with the always amiable and effusive musicians, who will not be offended if you pick their brain..

Oh, and did I mention that a gourmet buffet of tea sandwiches, petit fours, and desserts – all served up by Patina – is set up for the final hour where you can mill or sit at round-top tables and schmooze with your fellow music lovers?

Tony Frankel's Stage and Cinema review of Le Salon de Musique, Dorothy Chadler in LAThe food, the view, the education, the company, the grace, the culture and, of course, the champagne, all add up to what has quickly become one of my favorite events in Los Angeles. Only two performances remain in Le Salon de Musiques’ third season: April 14 will see Mr. Shulman again on the cello playing Chopin, Delius, and a U. S. Premiere of a sonata by Camillo Schumann, and May 19 will showcase the Mahler Piano Quartet in A minor and a Brahms Lieder, featuring soprano Elissa Johnston.

photos by Ying Huang Photography

Le Salon de Musiques
Debussy: Cello Sonata in D Major & Violin Sonata in G minor
Ravel: Piano Trio in A minor
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion – Fifth Floor
played on March 10, 2013
for tickets and info on upcoming concerts, call (310) 498-0257 or visit http://www.leSalondeMusiques.com

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