Los Angeles Music Review: LE SALON DE MUSIQUES / WAGNER & SCHOENBERG to GLIÈRE & GRIEG (Dorothy Chandler Pavilion)

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by Tony Frankel on November 29, 2013

in Theater-Los Angeles


Julius Reder Carlson at Le Salon de MusiquesI had attended chamber music concerts in intimate salons before, but until last year I had never seen one in Los Angeles. Le Salon de Musiques changed all that. Now in their fourth season, this sterling outfit continues to offer nine programs a year. The music changes, but the enthralling structure never does: First, musicologist Julius Reder Carlson (who is anything but stuffy and professorial) explains the context in which the music was written and offers insights into compositional techniques. Next, we hear the best musicians in the land, followed by an informal Q-and-A period while we sip French champagne. Patrons then mingle while indulging from a lovely buffet created by Patina.

The events are so luxurious and uplifting that it led me to inspect other chamber music performances presented by other companies. While that has brought about some lovely experiences, Le Salon de Musiques has spoiled me. Now, my attendance once a month on the fifth floor of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion has become compulsory.

Tracy Cox, SopranoLast month’s concert introduced me to Tracy Cox, who sang Wagner’s song cycle, Wesendonck Lieder, accompanied on piano by founding artistic director François Chouchan. How refreshing to hear such a sonorous and rich soprano who dexterously blended vocal expertise and emotion: Dusky and luscious in “Der Engel,” tempestuous and melancholic in “Stehe still!,” powerful in “Schmerzen,” dreamy in “Träume” and  coy, beckoning, wistful, forlorn and hopeful in “Im Treibhaus.” I don’t understand German, but even though there were English translations in the program, I dared not look away from Ms. Cox for a moment. Besides, I believe she could have been singing about how to prune rosebushes and I would have been equally absorbed.

Wagner and WesendonckThe experience was enhanced by the fact that we were a small gathering situated just a few feet from an amazing performer. I would much rather be here than seeing a recital in a grand hall (although I am definitely going to see Ms. Cox perform at Pasadena Symphony’s rendition of Beethoven’s Ninth on Feb. 15, 2014). Naturally, Mr. Carlson’s introduction included what was happening in Wagner’s life at the time of his 1857 work, which is set to five poems by Mathilde Wesendonck, the wife of one of Wagner’s patrons, but I wasn’t expecting so much salacious gossip: Love affairs! Franz Liszt’s daughter! Siegfried! I was unashamedly mesmerized.

Cellist Eric ByersChouchan’s ingenious programming included a segue into Wagner’s “Siegfried Idyll” for String Quartet, a work of utmost gracefulness, feeling and sensitivity, followed by Verklärte Nacht, a string sextet in one movement composed by Arnold Schoenberg in 1899. Our musicologist pointed something out which pricked up my ears during these pieces: “Wagner sees love as death; Schoenberg sees love as forgiveness.” Having background on these works made them all the more accessible and emotional. The stupendous and awesome musicians, all of whom I have seen either at LA Opera, LA Chamber Orchestra or LA Master Chorale, became a living, breathing organism of passion. It was uncanny, but I could actually sense feeling from the strings of Tereza Stanislav (violin), Anna Landauer (violin), Rob Brophy (viola), Shawn Mann (viola), Arem Ksajikian (cello) and co-artistic director of Le Salon, John Walz (cello).

Cellist John Walz, co-director of Le Salon de MusiquesI also love that Le Salon presents premiere works no less amazing than those in the repertory. The 2013-2014 season continues on Sunday Dec. 8 at 4:00 with the Los Angeles premiere of Reinhold Glière’s String Quartet No.2 in G minor, paired with Edvard Grieg’s String Quartet in G minor. Now mostly forgotten from classical music repertoires, Glière was once more popular than Tchaikovsky. On hand will be Serena McKinney, violin, Erik Arvinder, violin, Rob Brophy, viola and Eric Byers, cello—all world-renowned players. Below are two samples to whet your appetite. I’ll see you at Le Salon de Musiques, a unique musical experience like no other in Los Angeles.

Here is a sample of Grieg’s String Quartet in G minor Op. 97 (1878):

Here is a sample of the Andante and Vivace from Glière’s String Quartet No.2 in G minor, Op. 20 (1905), performed by the Pulzus String Quartet:

Le Salon de Musiques
played on November 3, 2013
WAGNER: Siegfried Idyll for String Quartet
WAGNER: Wesendonck Lieder for Soprano and Piano
SCHOENBERG: Verklaerte Nacht for String Sextet Op. 4

LE SALON DE MUSIQUES Grieg & Gliere, December 8, 2013

coming up on Sunday, December 8, 2013 at 4:00 PM
GLIÈRE: String Quartet No.2 in G Minor Op. 20
GRIEG: String Quartet in G Minor Op. 27
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion – Fifth Floor
for tickets and info, call (310) 498-0257 or visit http://www.leSalondeMusiques.com

{ 1 comment }

alice simpson November 30, 2013 at 9:53 am

What a wonderful review… but certainly no surprise to those of us who are there each month to celebrate and toast with champagne our love of chamber music.

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