As Ms. Searmi Park played her violin at the final concert of Le Salon de Musiques’ 2013-1014 season, immersion and emotion manifested through her body. She sat at the edge of her chair and as the music of Beethoven’s piano trio, Frank Bridge’s Russian valse, and Scharwenka’s serenade reached in and carried us away, Park’s body leaned forward. She drew the bow across her strings, then her torso lurched backwards, her foot stamped. Park’s bow zipped, sung, whined, and purred. Her fingers plucked. Her brow furrowed, then relaxed; eyebrows raised, then lowered. Her body language was as much a part of the performance as her musical skill.
Such is the intimacy of Le Salon de Musiques‘ chamber series concerts. The program for the 2014-15 series has just been released and whether you are a connoisseur and an afficionado or an enthusiast or a mere fan, experiencing the music only feet away from the performers, which made our bodies hum and our mouths smile, we highly recommend this experience.
Founder and Artistic Director François Chouchan also sits on the edge, on a bench in front of a new Steinway piano. It looks like he’s too far away to even reach the keys, but his feet hover over the pedals and his torso leans forward, neck stretching, head hunkering down towards the keys, as though protective, coveting his special place. The profile that we can see—his horn-rimmed, round glasses, short-cropped hair, his mouth set between a pout and pursed—he looks like a young boy with his favorite toy; the joy he emanates is infectious.
The most difficult part of the performance is trying not to get antsy in the uncomfortable, straight-backed chairs, but the charge of the surroundings, tucked in a corner of a room on the 5th floor of the Dorothy Chandler with floor to ceiling windows looking onto downtown and north to the San Gabriel Mountains, overwhelms any discomfort.
The afternoon begins with a spread of ice tea and coffee, people milling around, chatting, and marking their spot. Many people are regulars and Chouchan greets them at the door by name. Once people are seated, ethnomusicologist Julius Reder Carlson speaks about the pieces in the day’s program with personal facts about the composers, as well as establishing the history of each work, the world in which it was created, and the world in which is was heard that influenced the initial public and critical reaction.
Following the concert, the floor is open for questions while guests sip on French champagne. Many of the questions indicate the audience’s level of knowledge, which is formidable. Luckily, our host is more a classical music devotee than expert, so our rather unsophisticated oohs and aahs are not an embarrassment to her. After the question and answer period, a sliding wall opens and guests enjoy a high tea-type buffet, catered by Patina, which is dangerously delicious. We chatted with our table-mates, a couple in the German diplomatic core who used to reside here and patron Le Salon regularly. They are currently stationed elsewhere, but took the time on their vacation to attend the last concert of the series. After experiencing Le Salon de Musiques for ourselves, we definitively appreciate that decision.
On October 12, 2014, Le Salon de Musiques begins it’s fifth season. Concerts are once a month through June 2015, with nine in all. The pieces presented will be from the masters, such as Mozart, Schubert, Stravinsky, and Rachmaninoff. Works by L. Boellman, Mikhail Gnesin, Jean Cras, Leo Smit, Vitezslav Novak, and W. Peterson-Berger will have their American premiers.
Though all of the concerts are intimate as a result of the no-stage set up and the limited space, the May 17th concert is scheduled for a recital with John Walz on cello and Steven Vanhauwaert on piano playing Stravinsky’s Suite Italienne and a Rachmaninoff sonata and a vocalise. On the other hand, the April 19th concert will have soprano Elissa Johnston with a sextet: flute, clarinet, bassoon, oboe, horn, and two pianos.
The purpose of Le Salon de Musiques is…to reintroduce amazing works from the Romantic/Neo-Romantic Repertoire, written by wonderful composers who remain almost forgotten today. (Le Salon de Musiques)
Tickets are available for individual concerts, as well as the full season.