Arts Preview: 15 ways to hear chamber music magic in L.A. this spring

Southern California is awash in chamber music. The trick is sorting out who to hear, and where. Pictured here, the Lyris Quartet performing with dancers at the Valley Center for the Performing Arts in Northridge as part of the Jacaranda music program.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Walt Disney Concert Hall may be a prime symbol of the city’s cultural life, but as Jim Eninger knows, smaller-scale music-making can be just as satisfying. The trick is knowing who to hear, and where.

“As an audience member at a symphony concert in a big hall, I feel like a bit of an outsider,” says Eninger, whose weekly Chamber Music Newsletter is an indispensable and comprehensive resource. “But when everything works together — the venue, the artists, the music — chamber music becomes magical.”

Some of these small chamber groups perform in intriguing locations — or for lower ticket prices. The close proximity of artists and audience “makes the chamber experience more intimate,” Eninger said.


Here’s a sampling of chamber groups’ spring concerts in and around Los Angeles. Requests for Eninger’s newsletter can go to

wildUp. The experimental music collective attracts a hip, younger crowd. In 2016, the L.A.-based group premiered David Lang’s “anatomy theater,” part of L.A. Opera’s “Off Grand” series. On April 17, the ensemble will offer a program at downtown’s Monk Space, including a premiere by Nicholas Deyoe and pieces by Helen Grime, Ruth Crawford Seeger and Heinz Holliger.

Pittance Chamber Music. This group brings opera up close and personal by featuring musicians and singers from L.A. Opera and its Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artists Program. On April 14, the ensemble presents “Three’s Company,” music for groups of three, at Barrett Hall in Pasadena’s Conservatory of Music. The program includes Poulenc’s Trio for Oboe, Bassoon and Piano; Loeffler’s “The Broken Bell” for voice, viola and piano; and Gernot Wolfgang’s “Road Signs.”

Kaleidoscope. A conductorless chamber orchestra, Kaleidoscope has a pay-what-you-can ticket model and open seating. A younger crowd gravitates to the orchestra’s 10 p.m. Saturday concerts downtown, which include premieres and warhorses from the likes of Beethoven and Shostakovich. For April 28-29 concerts, the ensemble chose two premieres from its “call for scores” competition, which fielded about 1,600 applications from more than 50 countries.

Le Salon de Musiques. Traditional music with a twist: Le Salon highlights worthy 19th and 20th century works by underrated or forgotten composers. On April 8, Eduard Nápravník’s little-known Sonata for Violin and Piano gets a hearing on the living room-like fifth floor of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion alongside Shostakovich’s towering Piano Quintet. A music scholar introduces the concert, and there’s French Champagne and a gourmet buffet where listeners and musicians mingle.

Music at the Mansion. Solo and chamber music plays at the Greystone Mansion and Gardens in Beverly Hills from January through June. The monthly Sunday concerts are followed by a meet-the-artists reception.

Da Camera Society. A venturesome organization that prides itself on selecting the right venue for the right music, Da Camera concerts take place in unusual spaces like the historic Bradbury Building in downtown L.A. and the William S. Hart Ranch and Museum in Newhall. On April 15, “Brazil From A to Z” will feature guitarist João Luiz and mandolinist Danilo Brito performing in a 3,600-square-foot artist studio in the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains.

Dilijan Chamber Music Series. It has an Armenian bent (new works have been commissioned from younger composers like Artur Avanesov), but the programming rarely neglects classic repertoire. On April 15, “Twin Peaks” pairs Alfred Schnittke’s 1984 Concerto for Choir with Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 14. Timed perfectly for dinner afterward, the concerts begin at 3 p.m. Sundays at the Colburn School’s Zipper Hall.

Mark Robson, left, and Antonio Lysy pictured in a Dilijan Chamber Music Series performance at Zipper Hall at the Colburn School. Christina House / For The Times

Coleman Chamber Music Assn. One of the oldest and most venerable chamber music series in the U.S., the Coleman presents top international chamber ensembles for six annual concerts at Caltech’s Beckman Auditorium. The Brentano Quartet joins soprano Dawn Upshaw at 3:30 p.m. April 29 for a program including Respighi’s “Il tramonto” (“The Sunset”) for mezzo-soprano and strings, and Schoenberg’s String Quartet No. 2, with soprano.

Camerata Pacifica. Based in Santa Barbara, Camerata Pacifica is known for its high level of music-making. Four concerts (April 18, 19, 20 and 22) take place at various venues. The Zipper Hall concert on the 19th features Schubert’s Piano Trio in B-flat major (D. 898) and the premiere of Lera Auerbach’s 24 Preludes for Viola and Piano.

Musica Angelica. In its 25th season, the venerable Baroque chamber orchestra presents an all-French program April 7 at the Beverly O’Neill Theater in Long Beach and April 8 at Zipper Hall. Soprano Celine Ricci is featured in a cantata by Clérambault, along with chamber music by Rameau, Leclair and Couperin.

Tesserae. For its May 19 season finale, the early music ensemble will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Pasadena with a program of chorale concertos and cantatas.

South Bay Chamber Music Society. This group delivers a high level of playing and is headed by a new artistic director, Robert Thies. Two concerts are usually on the weekend.

Monday Evening Concerts
Conductor James Baker and the Talea Ensemble in December during a Monday Evening Concerts performance. Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times

Monday Evening Concerts. Begun in 1939, MEC continues to challenge listeners with cutting edge contemporary works. On April 16 at Zipper Hall, artistic director Jonathan Hepfer conducts the Echoi Ensemble in works by Salvatore Sciarrino and Isabel Mundry.

Jacaranda. Jacaranda is known for imaginative programs of challenging contemporary music. The May 19 concert at First Presbyterian Church in Santa Monica offers “Regional Accents,” an exploration of three generations of Spanish/Catalan music, with works by Manuel De Falla, Tomas Peire-Serrate and Roberto Gerhard. The Lyris Quartet and pianist Gloria Cheng are among the stellar performers.

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. It’s the elite chamber orchestra that can take on Beethoven’s revolutionary “Eroica.” It’s also the group that performs “Baroque Conversations,” concerts devoted to Bach, Handel, Rameau and others. Conductor Harry Bicket leads the ensemble in back-to-back concerts on April 26-27 at Zipper Hall and the St. Monica Catholic Church in Santa Monica.

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