A Selective Guide to the Arts in Los Angeles

In Classical Focus, Theodore Bell selects highlights from Jim Eninger’s Clickable Chamber Music Newsletter. Here are his top picks:

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Violinist Margaret Batjer leads the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra through the “Four Seasons” of Vivaldi’s Violin Concerti of Opus 8 and Mendelssohn’s “Italian” Symphony in two concerts this weekend.  The first performance is at the historic Alex Theatre in Glendale on Saturday, Oct. 17, at 8 p.m., and the second is at UCLA’s Royce Hall, on Sunday, Oct. 18, at 7 p.m.

Concertmaster Margaret Batjer has been a member of the Angeles Chamber Orchestra since 1998, and joined the faculty of the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California in 2005. She made her first solo appearance at the age of 15 with the Chicago Orchestra and went on to play with other major orchestras, including the Philadelphia and New York String Orchestras and the St. Louis, Seattle, San Jose and Dallas symphonies. In addition to touring throughout Europe, she has performed regularly at the Marlboro Music Festival, and with the Minnesota Orchestra Sommerfest, La Jolla Summerfest, Vancouver Chamber Music Festival, Sarasota Festival, and Naples and Cremona festivals in Italy. Batjer has garnered further acclaim as a member of the Accardo Quartet, with whom she recorded the Bach Concerto for Two Violins in D minor for Philips with Salvatore Accardo and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, and more recently with Hilary Hahn and LACO, directed by Jeffrey Kahane, for Deutsche Grammophon.

The Alex Theatre has been an LA-area landmark since 1925 when it was a vaudeville and motion picture house. Its Greek and Egyptian motifs are an example of the grand theaters of the early 20th century.  Royce Hall is one of America’s better concert halls, and historically has provided a stage for some of the world’s finest talent. Royce has a reputation for its fine acoustics and distinctive style. If I were to pick a venue for this performance, I think that Royce Hall will have a better sound, but the ambiance of the Alex Theatre cannot be dismissed and the sound will still be quite good. I recommend the Alex Theatre for this concert; it will be a fitting setting for the program. Don’t miss the pre-concert lectures one hour before curtain.

Saturday, Oct. 17, 8 p.m.
Alex Theatre
216 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale

Sunday, Oct. 18, 7 p.m.
Royce Hall at UCLA

Tickets: $100, $85, $50, $42, $18 ($50 seats discounted to $42 for
seniors 65+ and college students). To order tickets, call (213)
622-7001, ext.215. For complete information about the concert and the
artists, including program notes and restaurant recommendations, and
to buy tickets online, visit http://www.laco.org/performances/93/.

People Inside Electronics

Looking for something totally modern? Then don’t miss the inaugural concert from People Inside Electronics (PIE) this Saturday at 8 p.m. in the South Pasadena Library. Artistic Directors Aron Kallay and Isaac Schankler have put together an intriguing program of the uber-modern, including: Peter Ablinger’s “Voices and Piano” for piano and tape; Bill Alves’ “Stellation for string quartet, electronic audio, and video;” the world premiere of  Schankler’s “Mobile I” for violin and live electronics; John Luther Adams’ “Red Arc / Blue Veil” for piano, percussion, and tape; and Milton Babbitt’s “Philomel” for soprano and tape.

Saturday, Oct. 17, 8 p.m.
South Pasadena Library
1100 Oxley St., South Pasadena

Suggested donation: $15.

Southwest Chamber Music

Southwest Chamber Music opens the 2009/10 season on Oct. 18.

Southwest Chamber Music opens the 2009/10 season with a benefit concert on Oct. 18.

Southwest Chamber Music is opening the season with a benefit concert not to be missed this Sunday, Oct. 18, at 5 p.m. in Pasadena. This extraordinary company is always worth hearing – they are top-shelf, and among the best in the region. The program includes William Kraft’s “Encounters X,” Kurt Rohde’s “Under the Influence,” and Alexandra du Bois’ “An Eye for an Eye Makes the Whole World Blind.” This opening night of the season also heralds the release of the three-CD set of Kraft’s “Encounters” series on Cambria Master Recordings. The event also coincides with the 20th-anniversary Armory Center art exhibition “Inside/Out,” featuring works by 20 contemporary artists, including Ed Ruscha, Bruce Nauman, and Betye Saar. And there is food – delicious treats from El Portal, Green Street, and Europane – all to be enjoyed with select wines.

Sunday, Oct. 18, 5 p.m.
Armory Center for the Arts
145 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena

Tickets: $100. Proceeds from the event will go toward the ensemble’s ambitious Ascending Dragon Cultural Exchange Program and Festival, scheduled for spring 2010. This project is the largest cultural exchange between the United States and Vietnam.

Chamber Music Palisades

Chamber Music Palisades is another of the region’s superb organizations. Flutist Susan Greenberg and pianist Dee Stevens founded the ensemble, now in its 13th season, and manage to draw the finest musicians in the city to join them. KUSC’s Alan Chapman will be on hand to provide his witty and insightful commentary in a format that is always enjoyable.  The Chamber Music Palisades musicians are performing Tuesday, Oct. 20, at 8 p.m. at Saint Matthew’s Parish in Pacific Palisades. I heard them last season in an absolutely stunning concert that I will not forget (see my review of “Palisade Finale“). Tuesday’s program will include the “Quartet in G Major” for flute, viola, cello, and piano by C.P.E. Bach, the “Trio in G Major” for flute, violin, and viola by Max Reger, Rossini’s “Duo” for cello and bass, and Schubert’s “Piano Quintet in A Major,” Op.114, D667.  Shubert’s “Trout” will be superb by this group and, although it is the season opener, may be one of the highlights of the entire season.

Tuesday, Oct. 20, 8 p.m.
The Sanctuary of Saint Matthew’s Parish
1031 Bienveneda, Pacific Palisades

Tickets: $25 at the door / students with current ID admitted free.
For information, call (310) 459-2070 or visit http://cmpalisades.org/concerts/.

Camerata Pacifica

Outstanding pianists Anna Polonsky and Orion Weiss join hands for a wonderful program from Camerata Pacifica on Tuesday, Oct. 20, at 8 p.m. in the Huntington Library, and then again Thursday, Oct. 22, at 8 p.m. in the Zipper Concert Hall. The program includes music for solo piano and four-hands piano with works by Debussy, Schumann, Mendelssohn and Honegger.

Muscovite Polonsky immigrated to the United States in 1990, and after high school found her way to the Curtis School where she studied with Peter Serkin. She continued her studies at Juilliard, and has developed an impressive vita of international performances and recordings. Weiss has become one of America’s most sought after young performers, having appeared recently with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Honegger’s suite, “Le Cahier Romand” caught my attention on the program. The “All Music Guide” described these five little works written in 1921-1922 as “outwardly simple” with the “influence of Schoenberg” and at times “folk-like and gentle with a chromatic flavor… the influence of Stravinsky and possibly Bartók in the starkness of the rhythms and the melodies… In its simplicity, the final piece is reminiscent of Poulenc.”

Tuesday, Oct. 20, 8 p.m.
Huntington Library
1151 Oxford Road, San Marino

Thursday, Oct. 22, 8 p.m.
Zipper Concert Hall at the Colburn School
200 S. Grand Ave., LA

Tickets: $42