A Selective Guide to the Arts in Los Angeles

On Oct. 8, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra’s “LACO à la carte” series took music lovers to Finland … via the Bel Air residence of the Consul General of Finland, The Honorable Juha Markkanen, and his wife, Tuula Markkanen. The series, now in its seventh year, combines music by “America’s finest chamber orchestra” (Public Radio International) with international cuisine and camaraderie amongst musicians and music enthusiasts. Even better, the proceeds help support LACO’s education and community engagement programs.

After drinks and appetizers by the pool on a balmy Southern California night, guests were treated to Jean Sibelius’ string quartet in D minor Op. 56, “Voces intimae,” in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Finnish composer. LACO Associate Principal Cello Armen Ksajikian, who marks his 15th anniversary with the orchestra, led Josefina Vergara (principal second violin), Tamara Hatwan (violin) and Roland Kato (viola) in a spirited rendition of the quartet. The musicians brought unified emotion to a piece of which a mature Sibelius wrote, “It turned out as something wonderful. The kind of thing that brings a smile to your lips at the hour of death.”

The encore, the “Valse triste” (“Sad Waltz”), was equally affecting and beautifully rendered. Ksajikian said they had rehearsed only briefly, but the musicians played once again as if they truly felt the heart of the piece.

The acoustics in the “LACO à la carte” venues are consistently outstanding, with soaring ceilings and wood floors. Yet the massive estates somehow maintain an inviting atmosphere and intimacy. The seating is so close to the musicians that you cannot help but become a part of the music, feeling the emotional veracity to your core — and a deep gratitude for living in a city where you can share the universal language of music — from Finland to Mexico — with some of the nation’s finest players.

—Julie Riggott, Culture Spot LA

For information about “LACO à la carte” and LACO’s entire season of concerts, visit www.laco.org.