Los Angeles Music Review: LE SALON DE MUSIQUES: USA PREMIERES (Season Four, Concert Six)

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by Jason Rohrer on March 12, 2014

in Theater-Los Angeles


The line on Los Angeles is that we’ve built the entertainment capital we deserve.  I needn’t go into detail here about our fabled shallowness and bad taste.  We know what we know about us.  But if you’d like to disprove the axiom that the only LE SALON DE MUSIQUES Posterculture in L.A. departed for London in the cuffs of Esa-Pekka Salonen’s tuxedo, Le Salon de Musiques is the venue for you.

I am not a music aficionado; I know what I don’t like, for the most part.  The inclusiveness of this ongoing series overcame all my reservations about not being hip enough to dig the scene, and almost all my issues with the unforgiving seats (provided, along with Champagne, sumptuous pastries, and very nice sandwiches, by Patina).  With its introductory notes by co-artistic director François Chouchan, educational preamble by musicologist Julius Reder Carlson, and an exceedingly diplomatic message from German Consul General Bernd Fischer, last Sunday’s Salon made at least one classical music outsider feel very much as if he belonged there.

Soprano Elissa Johnston, violinist Guillaume Sutre, cellist Tim Landauer, and pianist Steven Vanhauwaert exemplified professionalism and good taste, singing and playing with no lack and no extras.  Sitting within a few feet of them, as one does in the salon style of this presentation (in a comfortably intimate room high above the Music Center plaza), it’s easy to imagine the marquise de Rambouillet looking on with quiet approval.

Guillaume Sutre, violin, Steven Vanhauwaert, piano, Tim Landauer, cello, and Elissa Johnston, soprano, perform at Le Salon de Musiques’ Season Four, Concert Six, USA PREMIERES.M. Chouchan is a curator of the first order.  For Sunday’s program he presented a number of pieces illustrating the era of the composer-showman, pieces little-known today; Mr. Carlson made clear their relevance to each other and to our modern sense of the classical canon.  Essentially, we have grown out of our appreciation for flamboyance, for overt self-indulgence.  Some Franz Liszt songs for soprano and piano, and a pair of sonatas (Violin in D Minor and Cello in E Minor) by Xaver Scharwenka, made this point handily, as the composers wrote them to showcase their own skills at the piano.  Without fuss, Mr. Vanhauwaert demonstrated the composers’ delight in the piano, if not at the expense of the bow instruments, certainly as their rival.

LE SALON DE MUSIQUES LogoIn the case of Liszt’s Petrarch Sonnets, it’s difficult for a newbie to understand how the piano music and the vocal music fit together at all.  The Scharwenka pieces, while pleasant and not particularly challenging musically, feel more cohesive.  But they’re even more obscure: M. Chouchan had to get someone in Germany to photocopy their first edition of the violin sonata for him – this, in furtherance of the two Scharwenka pieces’ American premiere performance.  Interest in this music is at an ebb, indeed.

The most exciting piece of the afternoon, Clara Schumann’s Piano Trio in G Minor, introduced Mrs. Robert Schumann as more than a custodian of her husband’s works.  More famous and successful than her husband during their lifetimes, and usually billed under her maiden name of Clara Wieck, she wrote over 60 pieces for piano and orchestra.  This trio’s easy, comforting early movements give way to Clara WIECK-SCHUMANNincreasing sturm und drang as the piece develops, a fascinating evolution in twenty-something minutes.  These Sundays are a rare chance to hear fine music this close up, in a remarkably well-tuned banquet room.

But it’s the scene that really impressed me.  The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion stands tall on a hill, and from the fifth floor one enjoys a majestic view of downtown Los Angeles and the San Gabriel range to the north.  Skies were so clear on that 90 degree Sunday afternoon, I could watch snow melt on top of Mount San Antonio.   And sitting near a consul general is its own lesson in sophistication.  Sure, anyone with money can French his cuffs and turn out in handmade tassel loafers.  But Dr. Fischer was introduced as the ambassador from the German Democratic Republic, and to watch a master of politesse explain with tact and grace that he does not represent what we used to call East Germany is to feel one’s social status elevated more than a little.

Le Salon de Musiques
Season Four, Concert Six: “USA Premieres”
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion Fifth Floor, 135 North Grand Avenue
performed on March 9, 2014
Guillaume Sutre, violin
Tim Landauer, cello
Steven Vanhauwaert, piano
Elissa Johnston, soprano
F.LISZT: Songs for Soprano & Piano
X.SCHARWENKA: Violin Sonata in D Minor (U.S. premiere)
X.SCHARWENKA: Cello Sonata in E Minor Op. 46a (U.S. premiere)
CLARA SCHUMANN: Piano Trio in G Minor Op. 17

Season Four, Concert Seven: “La Belle Epoque”
Sunday April 6, 2014 at 4:00 pm
Pantoum Trio:
Tereza Stanislav, violin
Cecilia Tsan, cello
Steven Vanhauwaert, piano
Hae Ji Chang, soprano
C. TAYLOR: Ballade for Violin & Piano in C minor Op. 73
B. GODARD: Two pieces for Cello & Piano Op. 61 (Aubade & Scherzo)
R. HAHN: Violin Sonata in C minor
R. HAHN: Songs for Soprano & Piano
CHAUSSON: Piano Trio in G minor Op. 3
for tickets and info, call (310) 498-0257 or visit www.leSalondeMusiques.com

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