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.