An astonishingly beautiful concert took place this weekend presented by the Le Salon de Musiques Chamber music series, at the 5th floor of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on 4 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013. This venue allows you to sit just a few feet away from the musicians and experience classical music, up close and personal.
The afternoon's performance featured the rarely heard String Quartet No. 2 by Reinhold Gliere (1874-1956) a Russian composer largely unknown in the West, followed by the String Quartet No. 1 in G Minor, by the famous Norwegian composer, Edvard Grieg (1843-1907). Performing these ambitious works for the first time as an ensemble, were four outstanding musicians: Serena McKinney, Erik Arvinder, (violins) Rob Brophy, viola and Eric Byers, cello, giving a concert that was alive with spontaneous and authentic feeling.
Part of the success of Le Salon de Musiques' Chamber music series lies in the Director and Founder of the series, Francois Chouchan’s approach to chamber music. He explained that he invites musicians who are comfortable with each other, which often makes for great chemistry in performance. This sensitivity to his artists combines beautifully with repertoire that speaks to the heart.
The concert began with insightful information on Gliere and Grieg's musical styles and how they connect, explained by musicologist, Julius Reder Carlson.
Gliere’s String Quartet No. 2 (in four movements) held captivating Russian Folk tunes with driving rhythms, varied forms and elegant exchanges of melodies between the instruments. Very interesting was the prominent use of Viola, who was given many solo moments (rather than the usual first violin).
The audience along with this Reporter, were riveted for the entire 30 minutes of this exciting piece, and not one cough was heard. The same audience focus held for the four movements of Grieg’s String Quartet No. 2, full of contrasts between dark and light, which was performed with stunning effect.
These young artists created an ensemble sound that was simply thrilling to hear. As musicians they completely inhabited the music of both Gliere and Greig’s compositions. The audience was swept on a journey through the clarity and depth of their musical articulations, dynamics, phrasing and colors.
In both String Quartets, the passionate performance by Serena McKinney leading the group with elegant simplicity on first violin, reminded one of the great violinist of former days, Fritz Kriesler. She played with warm tone, abundance of colors and exquisite charm in her phrasing. Erik Arvinder, second violin, provided precision and lovely timbre to his part. Adding sonorous complexity and suave phrasing was Rob Brophy, on viola. Grounding the entire group, was the gorgeous and elegant toned Eric Byers, on cello. A member of the renowned Calder Quartet, Byers played Gliere and Grieg's music with expressive and brilliant technique.
After concluding each of these lengthy works the young performers received many bravos and standing ovations.
For this reporter, this performance ranks as one of the best chamber music events experienced in a long time. After the concert a discussion with the musicians followed, along with French Champagne and gourmet pastries by Patina.
If you haven't yet attended Le Salon de Musiques, get your tickets for the rest of the season. It's spectacular.