A Selective Guide to the Arts in Los Angeles

Le Salon de Musiques opened their 2013-14 season on Oct. 6 with a marvelous pairing of string quartets by Franz Schubert and Guillaume Lekeu. Artistic Director François Chouchan, with his keen sense of programming and recruitment of inspired artists, has created a real gem among the Los Angeles chamber music experiences.

The “Salon” concept was inspired by the intimate concerts hosted by Marie Antoinette. The purpose is to promote an environment in which listeners can have close encounters with the music and musicians. “Chamber music was written for intimate and small venues,” said Chouchan.

The programmatic theme this year is to couple classic repertoire with lesser-known works. This concert opened with “Meditation” for String Quartet by Belgian composer Lekeu, who died at barely 24 years old in 1894. In his short life, he was very prolific and rapidly gained notoriety. The style is precocious and influenced by Beethoven, but clearly expresses a unique voice that can be easily discerned in this sweet quartet. The substance of the program was Schubert’s String Quartet in D minor D 810, “Death and the Maiden.” The ensemble was stirring. The salon format just intensified the effect; the closeness of the artists to the audience delivered every nuance.

The Impressario Room on the fifth floor of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion is a fine salon. The backdrop was a beautiful window vista of Los Angeles; the Civic Center and the new downtown plazas added a nice ambiance. Dodger Stadium was visible in the distance on that beautiful, clear day. A flock of birds swooped in tight formation across the window at one point as if they were on cue. But the music was so close and immediate that the dynamic quality of the background scene blurred into an uncanny feeling of “home” – and what a fine home it is.

The Belgian Consulate greeted the audience with remarks on the significance of the arts and their important role in society. Musicologist Julius Reder-Carlson then offered an illuminating introduction describing the historic context of each work, and offering insight into the motivations and mindsets of the composers.  Following the performance there was an opportunity to ask questions of the musicians while sipping French Champagne. Then everyone enjoyed a fine French buffet with pastries and further opportunity to speak with the artists and other patrons.

The ensemble seemed to have taken a special interest in the project and invested significant time in rehearsal — some “umpteen” sessions by their report.  The effort paid off; the group transcended the technical demands of their individual parts and achieved a unanimity of interpretation and spirit. They seemed to move as a cohesive unit, their communication was coordinated, their message vivid. Their playing of “Death and the Maiden” was remarkable in many ways. In the presto, they brought to mind the fabulous Quatuor Ebène.

Violinist Teresa Stanislav was breathtaking at times; her attention to detail was meticulous, and she seemed to empathize with the soul of the music and to express it in her touch. Her instrument sang Schubert’s delightful melody beautifully. Her approach was elegant, and she maintained control even as the music became lightning fast and increasingly charged.

Violist Robert Brophy and violinist Jessica Guideri seamlessly tied melody and accompaniment effects together. The blend of their instruments was superb.

Cellist Ben Hong was conspicuous with his wonderful, rich timbre. The room resonated with his instrument whether he was the underlying driving force or warmly playing a lyrical melodic line. His instrument was a 1707 Guarneri on loan from the LA Phil — that partially explained the exquisite timbres, especially nice at only a few feet away.

Bravo to Stanislav, Guideri, Brophy and Hong on a Schubert to remember!
~Theodore Bell, Culture Spot LA

For information about upcoming concerts, visit www.lesalondemusiques.com/.