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Review: Le Salon de Musiques... Culture Spot L.A, posted By Henry Schlinger May 18, 2015
Now If you want to hear great chamber music performed by outstanding musicians in an intimate atmosphere where you’re only a few feet from the performers, and then be treated to Champagne and delicious treats from Patina, then you need to know about Le Salon de Musiques Chamber Music Series. For the past five years, one Sunday a month between October and June, Le Salon de Musiques has been treating patrons to the finest in intimate chamber music on the fifth floor of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Not only can one hear classic chamber music from the likes of Schubert, Brahms and Beethoven, but Le Salon de Musiques also regularly presents U.S premieres of outstanding chamber music by less-well-known composers.

This past Sunday, concertgoers were treated to a program of works by two well-known composers — Stravinsky and Rachmaninoff — including the Suite Italienne for cello and piano by Stravinsky and the Sonata for Cello and Piano in G minor, Op. 19, and the Vocalise for Cello and Piano No. 14, Op. 34, by Rachmaninoff, performed by Principal Cellist of the LA Opera and Le Salon de Musiques Co-artistic Director John Walz on cello and Steven Vanhauwaert on piano. Rachmaninoff and Stravinsky had many things in common, including the fact that they were born within 10 years of each other in Russia, and that for a while they both lived in Los Angeles at the same time. Artistically, however, they were quite different. Rachmaninoff composed in the Romantic tradition, while Stravinsky carved out a more modern compositional technique.

The pieces on Sunday’s program, however, weren’t that dissimilar. The Suite Italienne is Stravinsky’s adaptation of his neoclassical ballet, Pulcinella, for cello and piano. Walz and Vanhauwaert gave a very spirited performance of this Stravinsky gem. But the real treat was yet to come. As Le Salon de Musiques Founder and Co-artistic Director Francois Chouchan pointed out before the performance, the Rachmaninoff sonata occupies a place among the great cello sonatas of Beethoven and Brahms even though it is technically a sonata for cello and piano. The piano is equal to the cello, and, as one might guess about a work for piano by one of the great piano soloists of all time, the piano part is extremely difficult. Vanhauwaert not only handled the technical demands with apparent ease and aplomb, the timbre of his playing perfectly matched that of Walz’s cello. His playing evidenced both technical skill and remarkable musicianship.

The sonata is almost symphonic in its sweep, or, as was mentioned by the performers in the conversation after the performance, it’s almost like a concerto for cello and piano. And the performers delivered a sound that was larger than the two individual instruments combined. What was even more impressive was that the two had only rehearsed a few times in the preceding week. The Rachmaninoff pieces gave Walz an opportunity to show his extraordinary talent and depth of musical expression. He didn’t just play the notes; he played long, sweeping phrases, bringing out the unabashed romanticism in the pieces. And his tone was sublime. After five years, Le Salon de Musiques should not be a best-kept secret of chamber music in Los Angeles anymore. You have one more chance this season to take advantage of a Le Salon de Musiques concert. On Sunday afternoon, June 7, Le Salon de Musiques will present its last concert of the 2014-2015 season. Don’t miss it!

Le Salon de Musiques continues to embrace intimacy Los Angeles Times, posted By: David Ng · October 7, 2014
Now entering its fifth season, Le Salon de Musiques remains a charming oddity on the Los Angeles music scene -- a chamber series that insists on the 18th century tradition of physical proximity between audience and performer, while exploring lesser-known composers of the 20th century and beyond.

The new season, starting Sunday, features a typically eclectic lineup of contemporary composers including Howard Hanson, Frank Bridge and John Ireland. There will also be concerts devoted to music by Schubert and Rachmaninoff.

Le Salon has attracted top musicians from the L.A. Philharmonic and L.A. Opera. This season's performers will include Martin Chalifour, concertmaster of the L.A. Philharmonic, and Carrie Dennis, the orchestra's principal violist.

The monthly concerts, which take place of the fifth floor of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, put the audience in close physical proximity to the musicians. After each performance, the audience has the chance to mingle with the musicians in the tradition of classical salon culture -- with the bonus of a catered buffet spread.

Founder François Chouchan, a French-born pianist, recently sat down to talk about the series. Here are excerpts from the interview, which was conducted in French.

What has changed over the past seasons?

It's still the same concept -- intimacy, the sharing of music. We have a number of people who come and who know us well by now. And we try to find composers of the neo-Romantic variety, who aren't so well known. But there's also a mix in the programming -- we include composers from the standard repertoire too.

How do you select the music?

I choose with my heart. I try to see to it that there are musical connections between the pieces -- it's very important because you can't just throw them together without considering things on the historic level.

Why the insistence on physical proximity between musicians and audiences?

Chamber music was written to be played in small settings. Marie Antoinette created a salon for music at Versailles that was in a small space. In chamber music, you can experience the reverberations from the instruments and even the breathing of the musicians. There's an alchemy that forms.

The conversational element is something people get to experience with most concerts.

People end up asking a lot of questions. They get to socialize with prominent musicians and see that they're regular humans.

Le Salon de Musiques: Chamber music at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion Jewish Journal, posted By: Rick Schultz · September 18, 2014
Mikhail Gnesin and Leo Smit — ever hear of them? Most of us probably haven’t, and that’s one of the intriguing aspects of Le Salon de Musiques, an intimate downtown chamber music series founded by the French-born pianist Francois Chouchan in 2010. 

The monthly series, which begins its fifth season on Oct. 12, offers French champagne, gourmet food and a talk by a musicologist. But people attend Le Salon, which takes place on the fifth floor of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, for its special ambiance. Listening to music there is like hearing it in someone’s big, carpeted living room with giant windows. 

In 2011, audience members, seated on the same level as performers, were treated to a memorable rendition of Franz Schubert’s “Winterreise.” As the troubled hero of the song cycle slowly descended into possible hallucinatory madness, the room darkened with the sun setting over city and hills — music and mood became one.

At its start, few expected Le Salon would become a fixture of Los Angeles’ music scene. There was nothing especially contemporary about Chouchan’s programming. Schoenberg’s darkly beautiful “Transfigured Night” was as cutting edge as Le Salon got. 

But it has become one of the brightest and most exciting chamber music series in the city, largely because of  Chouchan’s counterintuitively daring and imaginative programming. For example, the upcoming Dec. 7 program offers Maurice Ravel’s masterly “Sonata for Violin and Cello” followed by Mikhail Gnesin’s “Songs  of a Knight Errant” for string quartet and harp. Gnesin, along with Smit and Reynaldo Hahn, are three Jewish composers whose works are scheduled for the new season.

During a recent interview at a Westside deli, Chouchan said he wasn’t sure how many works programmed for 2014-15 are actually premieres. He figures at least eight have not been performed either in Los Angeles or in the United States, his new home. Chouchan, 53, became an American citizen last year.

“For me, it’s a mystery,” Chouchan said. “The scores by these composers are so well crafted. Why should we put them in a drawer and not perform them? It’s bizarre.”

Julius Reder Carlson, Le Salon’s resident musicologist, said the series re-creates a chamber music experience closer to what one was like in the 19th and early-20th centuries. “Music performances were usually filled with obscure, often unknown, works of remarkably diverse quality, genre and style,” he said.

Chouchan often does painstaking detective work to find these overlooked, suppressed or forgotten scores. And sometimes he has help. One of the social charms of Le Salon is that audience members feel free to mingle with musicians (the champagne helps). In one case, Chouchan said, a Russian patron of the series helped him locate the music to Gnesin’s “Songs of a Knight Errant,” as well as for his Piano Quintet, Op. 11, scheduled on the June 2015 program.

Gnesin, the son of a rabbi and a pupil of Rimsky-Korsakov’s, composed during the repressive communist period (he died in 1957). “His music is dark, especially compared to Smit’s,” Chouchan said. “It is more cerebral, delicate music, where you can hear the details of each part.” 

Another unusual piece is by Dutch composer Leo Smit, who was murdered at age 43 at the Sobibor extermination camp. He is represented by the Sextet for Piano and Winds on Le Salon’s April 19 program.

“Mixing piano and winds is not so usual for chamber music,” Chouchan said. “I wanted to add more wind instruments for this season, so I got the score from Amsterdam. There is not a lot known about Smit, but his music is strangely joyful with beautifully articulated rhythms. I am deeply Jewish, so I want to talk about him, and about Hahn and Gnesin.”

Though Chouchan’s roots are in Russia and Poland, there’s no mistaking the French accent of his series, and Hahn, whose father was Jewish, and whose career was derailed by the Nazis in 1940, is a composer Chouchan thinks should be better represented. A fascinating figure who came of age in France’s creative Belle Époque era, Hahn was also Marcel Proust’s lover. “His music is so sensitive, a mixing of sadness and Romanticism,” Chouchan said.  

Two of Hahn’s works on the March 8 program — one for viola and piano, another for violin and piano — feature Los Angeles Philharmonic concertmaster Martin Chalifour and principal violist Carrie Dennis, who join an equally stellar group of musicians. 

Rob Brophy, a violist for the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and regular guest artist at Le Salon, said one reason for the Salon’s success is how Chouchan surrounded himself early on with like-minded artists. 

“His programming ideas were different,” Brophy said. “He partnered well-known pieces with underappreciated or even unknown scores. It’s an interesting idea from our point of view, because mostly no recordings exist of the repertoire he chooses.”

John Walz, principal cellist of Los Angeles Opera and artistic director of Le Salon since 2012, agreed. In the Salon’s third season, Walz performed Nikolai Myaskovsky’s Cello Sonata No. 2 with pianist Steven Vanhauwaert. Their Le Salon rendition has since been seen by more than 6, 500 people (and counting) on YouTube.

“That was a high point,” Walz said. “People can go to other series for the contemporary stuff. This is a chance to play gorgeous chamber music from the Classical, Romantic, neo-Romantic and Impressionist eras. 

“We’ve done the Myaskovsky a few times since,” Walz added. “I could stick to comfortable stuff at this point in my career, but it’s exciting to be learning new scores.”

For Chouchan, Le Salon’s success came as a pleasant surprise. “I wouldn’t have been able to do this in France,” he said. “You arrive here in America, and you are given a chance. I need diversity, and love historical things — to research and make discoveries.”

Schubert and Lekeu at Le Salon de Musiques Culturespotla, posted By: Theodore Bell · October 14, 2013
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!

An Intimate Arrangement Times quotidian, posted By: Sean Hughes · May 5, 2013
Le Salon de Musiques: Recital, Camillo Schumann, Fredrick Delius, Frederic Chopin, April 14
Andrew Shulman – Cello, Steven Vanhauwaert – Piano —
A great cultural treasure in Los Angeles is hidden in plain sight, high up on the Fifth Floor of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Attendees at a recent performance entered through large doors into an intimate partitioned area of the grand ballroom. A discreet sign read: Le Salon de Musiques. Inside, about 150 people greeted old friends and made new acquaintances. A grand piano, bench and a single chair were situated near the windows. Surrounding this corner was a half-circle of chairs for audience members, some of whom read glossy program notes describing the unique nature the ensuing recital. Act I would be “The Concert” from 4 pm – 5pm, featuring three brief chamber music selections. Act II promised “La Conversation” and would be enhanced by “French Champagne and Patina’s gourmet food”. When everyone sat down, the plush-carpeted quiet in the burnished gold room made it very easy to imagine that the music and ambiance could transport us back in time a hundred years, to a private soiree in a faded Paris townhouse.

Le Salon de Musiques, nearing the end of its 3rd season, is the brainchild of award-winning pianist Francois Chouchan. His mission is to present music, generally from the Romantic period, in intimate surroundings “without a stage or walls”. With his Artistic Director partner, John Walz, principal cellist with the L.A. Opera, Chouchan creates public concerts as they might have been presented privately in a 19th Century connoisseur’s home or garden, featuring small ensembles and soloists. “This is music I very much love.”, stated the charming Chouchan. He is passionate about the selections and musicians he chooses and continued to speak briefly about the composers—Chopin, Delius and the mysterious Camillo Schumann.
Additional background notes about the three scheduled pieces and their composers were given by a bright, young Ph.D from UCLA’s Musicology Department, Julius Reder Carlson. (Later, following the performance, Carlson would ably answer questions from the audience or direct them to the soloists.) We were told the selections would be performed in the reverse order of the composers’ births. Then two musicians walked from the back of the room and began to play.
Pianist Steven Vanhauwaert, originally from Belgium, is a tall, handsome man with very slender hands. (One of the many pleasures of Le Salon de Musiques is sitting only a few yards away from the performers and on the same level; this allows facial expressions, body movements and fingering skill to be clearly visible.) His youthful appearance belies a confident ease at the keyboard and makes his graceful power all the more surprising. Vanhauwaert was reviewed here recently after an astonishing performance at Santa Monica’s Jacaranda; his were two of the four hands that played Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” on one piano. He tours the world extensively as a soloist and as half of the “4handsla” duo.
Cellist Andrew Shulman, British by birth, has the face of a Roman emperor under a shock of grey hair. His large, strong fingers have served him well for decades—with the London Philharmonia, the Academy of St. Martin’s, the L.A. Philharmonic and elsewhere. He is currently the principal cellist with the L.A. Chamber Orchestra and has recorded 26 CD’s as part of the Britten Quartet. He told the audience in the Q & A following this concert that his cello and the other instruments in the Britten Quartet were made from the same tree! And he was full of information about the woods, resins and glues that Stradivari used centuries ago. Shulman’s years of experience are evident in his rich, seasoned playing.

The first piece the duo presented was the Sonata # 2 in C minor, opus 99, by German composer Camillo Schumann, who lived from 1872 to 1946. This performance was the U.S. premiere of a lovely but truly obscure composition. Chouchan spoke earlier about the lengths he’d gone to simply to find the score, at last obtaining a copy of the original manuscript from the German Consulate. (Schumann wrote over 300 works in his lifetime, in virtually every genre, and almost all of them remain unpublished.) Even though the Sonata was written in 1932, it sounds decidedly Romantic in nature. Its first movement prompted the woman next to me to whisper “It sounds exactly like Brahms”. Sitting as close as we were, watching the spirited interchange between Vanhauwaert and Shulman was like hearing a conversation between two old friends. The sound of a cello seems almost human at times and a piano’s range is broad enough to encompass every emotion. The blend of the two instruments was harmonious in all four movements of this sonata, even if its “modern” score evoked the Brahms Age and rather listless Liszt.
Schumann was a pianist and, for some time, the organist at the church in Eisenach where J.S. Bach lived; he and his brother even helped to restore Bach’s house. Schumann’s work would surely be better-known had he written it in the time of Brahms and Beethoven, his spiritual forefathers. But he composed “old-fashioned” sounds in the modern era and as a result he is virtually ignored today. Dr. Carlson drily noted that the primary link to Camillo Schumann on-line is www.unsung composers. The next offering was the all-too-brief Romance for Cello and Piano by English composer Frederick Delius (1862-1934). We think of Delius as one of the towering composers of lush symphonic pieces, orchestrated for a hundred instruments, and rightly so. But this quiet, 7-minute reverie pre-figures the later big sound. Before bowing a note on his cello, Mr. Shulman spoke about the Delius family—the father who was a wealthy purveyor in the wool industry and young Delius trying his hand at running an orange grove in Florida for a few years. While living in the American south, Delius heard and absorbed the plaintive sound of old Negro spirituals and that influence is evident in this Romance, written in 1896. Delius would write other pieces for cello during his life and this very early effort was given a delicate reading by Shulman and Vanhauwaert. The score weaves in and out, like waves lapping at the seashore; this organic musical seed would blossom in the next three decades into Delius masterpieces. Anyone interested in the music of Delius might want to track down a brilliant film about the last five years of his life, directed for the BBC in 1968 by Ken Russell. Called “Song of Summer”, it is available in several versions and collections on-line.
Le Salon de Musiques saved the best for last—and I don’t just mean the champagne, fresh fruit, high tea sandwiches, coffee, cookies and conversation. The Cello Sonata opus 65 in G minor by Frederic Chopin (born in Poland in 1810, died 1849) was the last of the composer’s works to be published in his lifetime. He was one of history’s greatest piano virtuosos and the demands on Mr. Vanhauwaert must have left him exhausted. There were torrents of notes to be played (some of them pre-figuring Rachmaninoff) and the spirited 4th movement was like a chase between cello and piano. This sonata was the last work Chopin ever performed in public ( February 16, 1848) and he was accompanied on cello by his friend Auguste Franchomme, for whom the piece was written and dedicated. Mr. Shulman said that Chopin wrote this duet in an improvised manner—playing portions, seeing how they sounded, making alterations and then notating the score. Themes from the first movement repeat in the last and the composition—surely the most rousing at this concert—was exhilarating to see and hear. Both performers were vigorously applauded at the conclusion.
Two last notes about Le Salon de Musiques are worth sharing. “La Conversation”, which immediately follows each concert, provides a friendly way for patrons to meet the soloists and each another, learn about composers’ lives and discuss music history, rehearsal practices or anything else. Champagne glasses are handed to everyone while still seated—which allows performers a chance to wet their whistles before fielding questions. And provides a way for the audience to toast the performers…and the music. Finally, the 8th and final concert of Le Salon’s current season is on May 19. It features piano quartets by Mahler and Brahms and Leider by the latter for soprano and mezzo soprano. Musicians Roger Wilkie, Helen S. Callus, John Walz, Edith Orloff, Elissa Johnston and Callista Hoffman will be on hand for the performance.

A stunning USA premier: P. Scharwenka's Piano Quintet a re-discovered masterwork, posted By: AHDDA SHUR · Jan 15, 2013
Not many in the USA can say that they’ve heard of the romantic 19th century music of German composer, Phillip Scharwenka. Scharwenka, (1847 -1917) wrote an enormous amount of chamber music, that is on par with the great German composers of his day. But for the most part, his music has been largely forgotten.

However, this past Sunday, Jan. 14, 2013 at 4 pm, at the 5th floor of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Le Salon de Musiques, now in their 3rd season in Los Angeles, gave a stunning USA premier of Phillip Scharwenka’s Piano Quintet in B Minor, Op. 118, revealing a composer of great worth.

Scharwenka's musical works and in particular this piece, were re-discovered by the founder and director of Le Salon de Musiques, French pianist, Francois Chouchan. Chouchan spent two years researching this composer, and personally located the only existing score of this piece, along with the assistance and support the German Consulate of Los Angeles.

The opening remarks given by Julius Reder Carlson, musicologist and master of ceremonies of Le Salon de Musiques, focused on the lives of brothers Phillip Scharwenka and Xavier (who established the noted Scharwenka Music Conservatory in Berlin) and offered theories as to why Phillip's music has been neglected.

The Sunday afternoon concert began with two works for Piano and Cello, starting with with J.S. Bach’s Sonata in D Major, for Cello and Piano in 4 movements, and Schumann’s Fantasiestucke, for Cello and Piano, Op. 73, in 3 movements.

Antonio Lysy, internationally celebrated cellist and teacher at UCLA, performed with impeccable elegance and total commitment. Partnered with equal grace on the piano by Steven Vanhauwaert, both artists created a mood, enunciating the austere and spiritual essence of Bach's work, before changing over to the robust and romantic style of the Schumann piece.

The capacity filled audience (tripled in size from last month) then prepared for the USA premier of Scharwenka's Piano Quintet in B minor. Francois Chouchan brought together a first-rate ensemble for this work, consisting of international and nationally recognized musicians: Gullaume Sutre, 1st violin, Searmi Park, 2nd violin, Helen S. Callus, viola, along with Antonio Lysa, cello, with Steven Vanhauwaert on Piano. These great artists gave an impassioned, committed and flawless performance of Scharwenka's gorgeous music.

Written towards the end of Scharwenka's life in 1910, his Piano Quintet evokes the great music of Brahms, Schumann, Cesar Frank, and Beethoven. Though a traditional 19th century composer, Scharwenka dispensed of the usual four movements, employing only three movements to express several contrasting themes and ideas.

The piano's role was mainly supportive, with some beautiful solo moments in the Adagio of the 2nd movement, played with consummate musicianship by pianist, Steven Vanhauwart. The thematic materials and melodies primarily stayed with the first violin.

From France, guest violinist, Gullaume Sutre (1st violin) took charge from the opening down beat. With his sweet, yet thrilling tones and phrasing, he directed the flow of the music with effortless passion. The plangent cello-like sound of the violist, Helen S. Callus combined with the cello playing of Antonio Lysy, provided a rich tonal balance for the ensemble.

Chouchan hopes to change Phillip Scharwenka's neglected status, and judging from the response of the audience, who gave a rousing standing ovation at the conclusion of the performance, this remarkable composer's music won't remain hidden for much longer.

After the music, Le Salon de Musiques continued with a lively question and answer period between audience and performers, as French champagne was served. The afternoon concluded with a gourmet buffet of light refreshments prepared by the Patina restaurant of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

On February 10, Le Salon de Musiques performs another USA premiere, of music by the 19th century composer, Zarebsky. For more information on the remaining concerts:

Review: Le Salon De Musiques Examiner, posted By: AHDDA SHUR · Dec 10th, 2012
An enjoyable and memorable chamber music concert produced by Le Salon De Musiques, took place this past Sunday, Dec. 9th, 2012 at the 5th floor of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. This third concert in Le Salon De Musiques' season, featured Francois Chouchan, artistic director, on the grand piano, violinist Searmi Park, and John Walz, co-artistic director, on cello. The artists performed Franz Schubert's Sonatensatz in B flat Major for Piano, Violin and Piano, and Schubert's dramatic Piano Trio No.2 in E flat Major.

Opening the concert with background remarks was musicologist, Julius Reder Carlson. Carlson, standing in the center of the room near the musicians, spoke without a podium or notes. A handsome and eloquent young man, he also proved to be an engaging and brilliant speaker, who provided musical information along with deep insights into Schubert’s political and personal life.

The problematic staging issues mentioned by this reporter in a previous review, had been excellently resolved. The artists performed in a lovely but smaller room dedicated just for the music, adjoined by a moveable wall to the banquet room. With dimmed lighting overhead, the audience sat comfortably in delicate chairs around the musicians, in maximized proximity to the performers. The overall effect created that elegant and intimate ambiance of an earlier age, that Chochan is striving for.

Schubert is a composer whose works are synonymous with song. Chouchan had remarked that he chooses music for his Le Salon De Musiques, that “sings to the heart.” The three soloists performed as a superb trio that truly sang this great music to the audience.

Searmi Park, on violin brought an effervescent precision to her part in both of Schubert's works. Her charming dancer like movements and facial expressions were a pleasure to watch. For Schubert's music her lean tone, and elegant phrasing was excellently suited. Her performance was admirably balanced by the plush and ringing legato lines of cellist, John Walz.

Particularly moving was the ensemble’s riveting performance of Schubert’s famous Piano Trio No. 2 in E flat Major. In four movements, this dramatic work moves from exuberance to introspection, and brooding meloncholy. There was nothing routine in this performance, played by these artists as if newly composed, and just for them.

Francois Chouchan brought gorgeous balanced tones to the piano, along with sustained passion and deep musicality to every phrase. The tempos he set favored the upbeat without being rushed. Especially effective was the tempo for the Andante con moto, where the melancholic and dramatic theme never dragged. Chouchan performed it with brilliance and sensitivity partnered by John Walz, on cello, who played the theme with a passionate conviction that left a memorable impression.

At the end of this moving performance, the entire audience rose up to give the ensemble a prolonged and appreciative, standing ovation.

An informal question and answers followed, during which French champagne was served. The afternoon concluded in the adjoining banquet room, where guests were served gourmet sandwiches and sweets from the Music Center’s famous restaurant, Patina.

The next concert of Le Salon De Musiques, takes place on the second Sunday of January, 2013, at the 5th floor of the Dorothy Chandler Music Pavilion, downtown Los Angeles. For more information about this exceptional chamber music series:

A New Season at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion Crescentavalleyweekly, posted By: Ted AYALA · Oct 15th, 2012
“Not here”, the attendant at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion’s will-call window told me. Walk downstairs. Find the gold elevator; take it to the 5th floor. It took a bit of searching, but the elevator was finally found in a well-hidden side area of the Pavilion. As I waited for the elevator to arrive some more people arrived, some alone, others in pairs or in groups of three; all of them with the same slightly confused, but expectant expression. A bell rings, the elevator doors open. We crowd in. Finally the bell rings again. We’ve arrived. The doors open to reveal a narrow hallway, lined with mirrors and gold colored décor. An air of being on the cusp of some supernatural revelation envelops us as we silently walk to our destination only a few feet away.
Just where are we headed anyway?
Only a few floors above from where the Los Angeles Opera was performing Mozart’s Don Giovanni, another—arguably more interesting—musical performance was about to take place.
The first concert in the new season of the Le Salon de Musiques chamber series was about to begin. Part of the bumper crop of chamber music offerings that Southern California has been awash in the past few years, Le Salon de Musiques carves out its niche by focusing on music by 19th century composers who are better known for their obscurity than for their music. Franz Xaver Scharwenka, Juliusz Zarębski, Camillo Schumann (no relation to that other Schumann), Sergei Lyapunov—composers whose names often survive only as dusty footnotes in the pages of musical history are in this chamber series brought to life; their music carefully and lovingly reexamined.
It was that adventuring spirit that animated Le Salon’s Sunday afternoon recital, its program consisting of two chamber music gems from Tsarist Russia.
Leading the proceedings was a bubbly chip from Mikhail Glinka, the “Father of Russian Music.” His Serenade on Themes by Bellini for Piano Sextet captured the composer in sunny mood; exuding a mellow Mediterranean warmth that reminded the listener of Stravinsky’s remark about Glinka being a “kind of Russian Rossini.” On the other side of the program was Sergei Lyapunov’s mighty Piano Sextet. A four-movement work composed in shortly before the Russian Revolution (and barely receiving its American premiere at the recital), its muscular, symphonic proportions mask the music’s fragile heart; made all the more poignant by the whirlwinds of history that would eventually swallow the composer’s country, forcing him into exile. This was especially true of the sprightly dancing Scherzo and the luxurious Nocturne that followed. This was music firmly rooted in the past, in the world of Tchaikovsky and Borodin, in the fading aura of the civility of Russia’s aristocracy.
For the performers—Roger Wilkie and Sarah Thornblade (1st and 2nd violins), Brian Dembow (viola), Ron Leonard (cello), Nico Abondolo (contrabass), and Gavin Martin (piano)—the performance wasn’t merely a archeo-musicological exhumation, but rather an act of devotion. Their performance exulted in the music’s richness of melody and expression. “This is music that matters,” they seemed to tell their audience. Indeed there was no doubting them at the program’s close.

Tucked away as it is in the shadow of other musical organizations, there is something about Le Salon de Musique that has a whiff of secret treasure. And a treasure it is; a brightly and highly distinguished gem in Southern California’s already glimmering chamber music crown.

Le Salon de Musiques Chamber Music Concerts Hollywood Today, posted By: Geoffrey Maingart · April 24th, 2012
Los Angeles, CA(Hollywood Today)4/24/12/–There is something very special happening at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on the 5th Floor. This is a Chamber Music Concert Series presented by the Angeles Concerts Artists Corporation. Besides presenting some of the finest musicians in town, it also creates an informal setting where the audience is introduced to the program with a short lecture about the program and ends with a question and answer session with the performers. This was followed with champagne and gourmet appetizers with the musicians.

The program opened with a beautiful performance of a relatively unknown quartet by Anton Arensky. The 2nd movement of this quartet was performed only and is entitled variations on a Theme by Tchaikovsky Opus 35. The piece is written for violin, viola and two celli. It begins with a church like theme and the group has a wonderfully deep sound with the 2 cello.

The first variation, un poco piu mosso, could be ballet music and is followed by a lively Allegro. The ensemble led by Roberto Cani, concertmaster of the LA Opera on violin was wonderful. Arensky truly broke the traditional model with this piece using wonderful pizzicato and harmonic effects and beautiful melodic writing for all of the instruments. The piece is a very nationalistic piece that was necessary for the time in Russia and surprisingly ends with a Russian Orthodox Church melody in the final Moderato. The ensemble was beautiful and the playing of all four of the musicians shows why they are four of the best in Los Angeles.

Violist Andrew Duckles and cellists Timothy Landauer and David Low joined Roberto. This is the first time I have heard Landauer and he is a revelation with spectacular playing throughout the concert.

Next and last on the program was the string sextet, “Souvenir de Florence” by Tchaikovsky. Unlike Arensky, Tchaikovsky spent many years of his life traveling and wrote this wonderful sextet while in Florence, at the same time finishing the Nutcracker Ballet. The influence of the Ballet can be felt throughout this sextet. The ensemble was joined by violinist Julie Gigante and violist Alma Fernandez, both fine musicians and well know in the community from many other ensembles and orchestras. The performance was full of color and beautiful nuance and rubato. When you have brilliant musicians performing in one of the great chamber music works together you are always greeted with a wonderful performance.

Roberto Cani plays in a lyrical style that combines the Italian and Russian school of violin playing that is altogether delightful. Landauer is exciting on 1st cello and Duckles plays with a beautiful tone at all times. Julie and David complimented the principals at all times and the result was a brilliant and very romantic performance. The difficult fugue in the last movement was played with ease and the echo effects used by Tchaikovsky in all of the instruments were flawlessly played. The themes are some of the best Tchaikovsky has ever written and as in most of his works they repeat constantly without tiring. The ensemble was dynamic all of the time and the end of the last movement was truly exciting.

The program ended with a delightful question and answer session with the musicians and the audience really did participate with pointed and sometimes funny questions. When Julie was asked what she thinks about during the performance her answer was very funny. “I try not to think about the kids and what is for dinner.” Roberto even had a minor fender bender on his way to the concert and still played flawlessly.

If you want to have a delightful afternoon in an informal setting with great musicians performing the major works of the chamber music literature then do plan on attending this well organized series of concerts. The last concert will be on the 20th of May with the brilliant cellist, John Walz and pianist Francois Chouchan.

Music review: Le Salon de Musiques at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion Los Angeles Times, posted By: Rick Schultz · February 27, 2012 | 3:36 pm
One of the many pleasures of the monthly Sunday afternoon chamber music series Le Salon de Musiques is its intimacy. The Salon venue on the fifth floor of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion feels as if the listener is in a carpeted living room with large windows overlooking the city and hills. This special ambience, which includes a brief introduction by a musicologist, Champagne-fueled conversation between audience and performers, and a buffet, allows listeners to get closer to the music and musicians.

For example, after harpist Marcia Dickstein’s lovely, rippling account of Arnold Bax’s rarely performed “Elegiac Trio” for flute, viola and harp, several people said it was the first time they had ever seen and heard the instrument up close.

Dickstein, a Bax scholar, has recorded most of the British composer’s music for harp. His 1916 trio, which shows the Impressionist influence of Ravel, found sympathetic interpreters in Dickstein, flutist Pamela Vliek Martchev and violist Victoria Miskolczy. The trio’s richly harmonic language was perfectly placed between two more substantial French neighbors: Poulenc’s Flute Sonata with piano, composed for Jean-Pierre Rampal in 1957, and Fauré’s late-Romantic Piano Quartet No. 1 in C-minor (Op. 15).

Flutist Martchev offered a technically stirring, lyrical rendition of the Poulenc, superbly accompanied by pianist Steven Vanhauwaert’s delicately calibrated touch. You could almost feel her breath transformed into music.

For the Fauré, John Walz, principal cellist of the L.A. Opera orchestra, got permission to take off from the second half of the matinee performance of “Simon Boccanegra” to fill out a quartet (with Vanhauwaert, Miskolczy and violinist Tereza Stanislav) upstairs. Together they generated an alternately poetic and earthy intensity, never losing the work’s propulsive rhythmic impetus. The pianist’s clarity in playing softly (the piano lid remained open) blended sensitively into the opulent fabric created by his partners.

Photo: The February gathering of Le Salon de Musiques at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Credit: Henry Lim

Le Salon de Musiques: Chamber Music Concert Series L.A MAGAZINE, posted By: Kari Mozena · 11/23/2011 6:41:00 PM
Once a month, the Angeles Concerts Artists Corporation presents Le Salon de Musiques on the 5th Floor of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, where you can enjoy a chamber music concert in a smaller space (with a killer view of Los Angeles behind the musicians) and discuss afterwards. While chatting, you sip champagne and consume finger sandwiches (courtesy of Patina). I attended this month’s concert, which featured Francois Chouchan on the piano and Antonio Lysy on the cello. It was heaven. It’s wonderful to see such accomplished artists up close as they play, you become part of the music. As one attendee said to the musicians, “We feel what you feel.” The program was Schubert and Grieg, and musicologist (I want that title) Julius Reder Carlson helped lead the discussion. Lysy played a cello made by Carlo Tononi, made in Bologna in the 1700s. He discussed its history, which he had traced since its creation.

These evenings are a little gem. They are held monthly, and tickets are $65 and $45 for students. They run until May. Here is the schedule:

Photos Courtesy Karina Pires

Music Review: Le Salon de Musiques March 24, 2011 By Theodore Bell
An enthusiastic and appreciative Los Angeles audience was transported to a time in Paris long past through Le Salon de Musiques with Debussy, Saint-Saens and Ravel Sunday afternoon, March 20, in the Impresario Room on the fifth floor of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

Artistic Directors François Chouchan, Bernard Philippe, and Phillip Levy assembled an outstanding program that was dedicated to the Japanese people and their struggles in Chouchan’s opening greeting. A short preamble by musicologist Reder Carlson placed the music in context, describing the historic significance of the “salon” in French culture, underscoring the epicene qualities of intimacy and immediacy in the music, the musicians, and the ideals of the day.

The musicians were situated at floor-level with the listeners intimately wrapped around them in shallow semicircular rows. A wall of north-facing windows surrounding us on two sides overlooked the iconic urban hillside landscape of Los Angeles. Mist and clouds encompassed the view, giving it an unscripted impressionist ambiance. The rear wall of the rectangular salon was paneled halfway to the high ceiling to render a surprisingly good acoustic. I savored the purity and effulgence of the mostly direct sound.

The high point of the evening was the third and final work on the program: a stunning performance of Ravel’s String Quartet in F Major. The ensemble sound was striking, and the performance will register as among the most memorable of the year.

Sarah Thornblade was breathtaking at times; she is one of the great violinists of Los Angeles. Her attention to detail was meticulous, and she seemed to really connect to the soul of the music. Her inspired leadership of the quartet was vigorous and imprinted a lingering impression.

Cellist Andrew Shulman was conspicuous with his deep, rich tone, supported by his incredible technique and depth of affect. The entire room resonated with his instrument. His pizzicato was undamped, beautifully full, and his lyrical melodic touch was such a pleasure to hear. The plaintive Allegro moderato had a breath-like prosody.

Violist Rob Brophy and second violinist Searmi Parks seamlessly tied melody and accompaniment effects together. The blend among the ensemble members was consistently superb, even at pianissimo levels. The rhythmic Assez vif was effervescent with its characteristically bubbly tremolos, trills and dynamic bursts.

The rancor originally incited by Ravel’s controversial quartet, especially its closing Vif et agité movement, is difficult to understand, given how we now hear it as so obviously brilliant. This edition exuded dramatic energy at every turn, and the not-so-subtle builds and releases made for an exciting ending, closing the program with a flourish like the uncorking of a fine champagne.

Debussy’s Sonata in Trio for Flute, Viola and Harp L 137 was the opening and most defining of the French style as our modern ears have come to assign it. Its lack of harmonic tension, undulating rhythms and melodic stasis were described by Carlson as metaphoric clouds interacting on a large scale but without clash or pathos.

Flutist Pamela Vliek had an exceptional timbre that brushed her Debussy with warm hues and nuanced affection. In the opening Pastorale, Vliek was captivating with her ability to meld with the harp and viola; she shaped her attacks and touch to match them, especially in the mellow timbres of the lower register. Her rich, organic sound was wonderful.

Brophy was capable whether in duo, trio, or solo, and his unique style was engaging. Marcia Dickstein’s harp grounded the Debussy (and Saint-Saens) with her solid technique and gentle touch. Her influence elevated the performance to a level rarely experienced. The Interlude found Dickstein energized, and Vliek and Brophy were effervescent in the wispy flourishes. At other instances, it was amazing how much music could be created with the plainest of sustained pitches. Dickstein’s harp purred as she pushed the Finale along, and Vliek delivered a high-energy splash of her own to propel us toward the conclusion.

Saint-Saens’ Fantasie in A for Violin and Harp, opus 124, was distinctly different from the less-staid Impressionists on the program. Searmi Park was particularly assertive in her approach, and she engaged the attention of the audience from the very start. Her instrument sang so beautifully at times, and her expressive, almost rapturous, manner brought out unique timbres and envelopes that she still managed to precisely control. The delicate flowing lines of the Largamente were clean and exact, although still fluid. Her melodies were warm and engaging, and the emphatic musical climax of the Andante loosened the rhythm of my breathing. Her delicate pianissimo harmonics that followed were deftly sweet.

The tempo of the event itself was nice. The one-hour concert, without intermission, was followed by an informal champagne chat between the audience and musicians. The range of questions was intriguing and really provided insight into the motivations and practices of the artists.

Bravo to the producers and artists of Le Salon de Musiques! Très LA!

The sophistication of music and ambiance combined exquisitely with LA’s finest artists for a truly unique event and an important addition to the local chamber music scene.

Two concerts remain in the series this spring. Phillip Levy will perform on Schubert’s String Trio in B-flat Major and Mozart’s String Quintet in G Minor scheduled for April 10, and Chouchan will join the final installment of the series on May 15 with Mozart’s Sonata in D Major and Rachmaninoff’s Fantasy-Tableaux, both for two pianos.

~Theodore Bell/Culture Spot LA

Le Salon de Musiques in Schubert - A Haunting Second Concert of the Inaugural Season Huffington Post - December 2, 2010 | 2:00 pm
If symphony orchestras are lumbering, soon-to-be-extinct dinosaurs, as some of their critics claim, then today's chamber ensembles are their evolved, fleet-winged descendants that may yet survive music's Jurassic Age.
The scene in Los Angeles has never been livelier; it's almost as difficult catching all this autumn's chamber concerts as counting birds in migration.
The latest sighting of the species is called 'Le Salon de Musiques.' Co-artistic directors are François Chouchan (series founder) and Phillip Levy, with Bernard Philippe serving as artistic advisor.
They have organized an inaugural season of eight concerts focused mainly on German composers.
The resident French and German Consulates are patrons. A list of featured artists in the series reads like a Who's Who of local virtuosos.
Le Salon's concerts are presented at an underutilized but elegant space within the very heart of the Music Center. The fifth floor of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, where the former Curtain Call restaurant hosted fancy gatherings in years past, is both a lovely perch overlooking the central city and an acoustically apt chamber for music.
Its dated, high society décor (with stiff chairs) is somehow appropriate for the throwback image this series projects.
Le Salon's promotional materials and its website have the refinement of a bygone era in their use of lacy script and imbedded composer faces that remind me of the Everybody's Favorite Piano Music volumes of my youth.
Yet there is nothing stuffy about the sincerity of its promoters to beguile and charm their listeners into the glories of chamber music.
I caught the second concert of the series on November 21, a performance of Schubert's String Quintet in C Major. Completed just two months before the composer's early death, at age 31, it is one of the greatest chamber compositions in the repertoire. At turns serene and searing, it was also Schubert' last instrumental piece and a swan song to the Classical era whose chief proponents had also included Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven.
The String Quintet's unusual combination of an extra cello with a standard string quartet provides richer sonorities in the lower ranges and, in the second movement, an ethereal dialogue between the first violin and the second cello.
I hear that conversation as between a despairing Life and embracing Death, and it was exquisitely spoken between violinist Kevin Kumar and cellist Antonio Lysy, as supported by the soft, extended harmonies of a string trio within the ensemble consisting of violinist Maia Jasper, violist Robert Brophy, and cellist John Walz.
The outer movements of the work suggest a vibrant society of gypsies and gentry comingling on the streets and café's of Vienna, while a desperate inner struggle consumes the increasingly detached composer, terrified but never self-pitying. In this piece and in his simultaneously composed but incomplete Symphony in D Major and Minor, Schubert seemed to foresee, with agonizing intensity, not only his own demise but the autumn of a European culture that Mahler was so acutely to echo at the dawn of the Twentieth Century.
The musicians had not performed this work together before, but each had been long acquainted with it from other encounters and brought to the afternoon an authentic musical compatibility and refined expression that may have surprised even them.
A discernable aura of significance filled the room as the music unfolded.
A pleasant aspect of Le Salon's format had been the earlier introduction of the piece by two narrators who earnestly if a bit naively read program notes, while the musicians highlighted important motifs to listen for in the performance to follow. After the concert, a question and answer session further reduced the artificial wall between performers and audience.
That wall was completely done away with in the bonhomie of champagne and gourmet cuisine mixed with cozy conversation at nearby tables after the concert's conclusion.
For at least one listener at the otherwise light-hearted post-concert celebration, Schubert's String Quintet lingered and haunted.

Photo Above: Carole Sternicha

LA Times October 18, 2010 | 2:00 pm
A lot of people buy into the notion that classical chamber music exists on a lofty perch above the madness of so-called civilization. Le Salon de Musiques takes that idea literally.
This new chamber music series –- which presented its debut concert late Sunday afternoon –- is housed in a partitioned dining room way up on the fifth floor of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The windows are left undraped, so listeners get a sweeping view of the rest of the Music Center, City Hall and parts beyond. On a clear day (which Sunday wasn’t), it ought to be a stunning sight.
The main thrust of Le Salon de Musiques, though, is an attempt to create a throwback to the 18th century salons of Marie Antoinette, whom founder/co-artistic director François Chouchan cites as his muse. The performance is relatively brief, about an hour of music, followed by another hour or so of “La Conversation,” at which the musicians and audience members are encouraged to mingle, talk about what they just heard, and sample French champagne and various delicacies inevitably provided by the folks at Patina. There is no stage, per se, yet the room sounds pretty good -– just dry and intimate enough for chamber music, with an appealing warmth in the mid-bass range.
Ticket prices are set at $65, which is higher than the Coleman Concerts and Music Guild’s top ducats ($45) and the neighboring L.A. Philharmonic’s chamber music series ($61.25 top) but within the wide price range of Chamber Music in Historic Sites, whose format Le Salon most resembles. An encouraging sign: The audience looked somewhat younger overall than the turnouts at some of our chamber music series.
For now, the programming of eight concerts, one a month through May, is resolutely conservative –- mostly mainstream material from Mozart to Rachmaninoff, heavy on the basic Germans. Sunday’s opening edition was devoted entirely to Dvorák. Pianist Chouchan and violinist/co-artistic director Phillip Levy opened with the folksy Sonatina in G major and were joined by violinist Julie Gigante, violist Victoria Miskolczy and cellist David Low in the more expansive Piano Quartet, Opus 81.
Both performances went off pretty well with hardly any surprises -- Chouchan and Levy treating the Sonatina as an equal partnership instead of violin with piano accompaniment and, in the Piano Quartet, the ensemble producing a richly upholstered well-balanced blend, mostly relaxed tempos, decent rhythm and energetically pushed codas. Levy prefaced each piece with informal verbal program notes (none was provided in the printed program), complete with demonstrations of key passages.
The “La Conversation” portion, however, is going to need some format tweaking in order to get a real dialogue going. A couple of questions were tossed to the musicians via a live microphone, but that quickly fizzled out, for people had already headed for the food line and were congregating in small groups. I would also think that a more provocative future program than the one presented Sunday might generate more interest in a lively discussion.
The menu, by the way, mainly consisted of trays of cucumber, beef, chicken and salmon mini-sandwiches and dessert items. Patina refused to take Marie Antoinette at her alleged (and historically questionable) word, for they did not serve cake.
–- Richard S. Ginell
Photo: Francois Chouchan, left, and Phillip Levy Performing at Le Salon de Musiques’ inaugural concert at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Credit: Carole Sternicha.

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