Le Salon de Musiques - January 13th, 2013


A stunning USA premier: P. Scharwenka's Piano Quintet a re-discovered masterwork

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. 13, 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: www.leSalondeMusiques.com

- Ahdda Shur, Examiner.com




Bach, Schumann and Scharwenka at Le Salon de Musiques


An entire century. Actually, it’s been 101 years and some months if we want to be specific. That’s how long it took for US audiences to hear the magisterial Piano Quintet in B minor, Op. 118 by German composer Philipp Scharwenka.

Through no fault of the music, I should add.


Scharwenka, one half of the fraternal duo that dominated German musical pedagogy at the turn of the 20th century (his younger brother was Xaver, whose piano concertos retain a tenuous toehold on the fringes of the concerto repertoire), was one of the unfortunate victims of a tumultuous century and its equally tumultuous musical history. With Germany defeated in the First World War, its economy and collective sense of self shattered, the survivors and youth of the era were quick and unforgiving in their willingness to cast away the old for the promise of the new. Whatever artifacts and ideals that carried even the faintest residue of the old century that lay in ruins was eagerly, even giddily, consigned to oblivion – and that included the Scharwenka brothers’ music.

Never mind all that. The music arrived to the New World last Sunday, a little late, but all the more welcome for it.


The performance was part of the 2012–13 season of Le Salon de Musiques, a chamber music group that finds its home on the highest floor of the gold-spangled hallways of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. François Chouchan, the organization’s founder and artistic director, has made it his mission to exhume musical works that lie forgotten under the gathering dust of time and neglect. His journey to bring Scharwenka’s work to listeners in Southern California cost him great effort, not to mention the assistance of the German Consulate of Los Angeles. A single copy of the score was eventually procured, which was

quickly copied out, reprinted, then sent to Los Angeles.


What would Scharwenka have thought about his music finally being heard on the American continent; in 21st-century Los Angeles no less, a time and place far removed from the composer’s Wilhelminian-era Berlin? The thought, I’d like to imagine, would have faded away into insignificance. Scharwenka would probably be too busy keeping his head from spinning in delight over the superb polish, technique, and expressive nuance of the Salon de Musiques musicians.


Had you never been told that this was a US première, you would likely have thought that the Piano Quintet was an old friend of these musicians. I’m not sure how much time the musicians had to live with the Scharwenka. It doesn‘t really matter. The players – Guillaume Sutre (first violin), Searmi Park (second violin), Helen S. Callus (viola), Antonio Lysy (cello) and Steven Vanhauwaert (piano) – utterly conquered this rich score. The playfulness at certain points, the exhilarating sense of risk – all of these were hallmarks of musicians for whom the score had ceased to be merely notes to be memorized, and had become flesh of their flesh.

True, the score isn’t without its imperfections. The outer movements were well padded with the pomp and bluster that characterizes a lot of the music from the German Empire’s zenith. (Take most of the work of Hans Pfitzner – please.) But like a pearl ensconced in the protective embrace of two dusky clamshells sat the work’s gorgeous middle movement, marked “Adagio con intimo sentimento” – reason enough for the work to endure today and always.


Anything following this performance would have been an anticlimax. Le Salon de Musiques wisely placed the accompanying works, J.S. Bach’s Gamba Sonata in D, BWV 1028 and the cello arrangement of Robert Schumann’s Fantasy Pieces, Op. 73, before the Scharwenka. The elegant restraint of Lysy and Vanhauwaert only served to whet the appetite for the Scharwenka that loomed at the program’s end. But they were fine performances in their own right.


After the recital, Lysy explained that his playing of the Bach adhered to conjectured theories of Baroque period performance. Perhaps. But there was also something capital-R Romantic about their playing that belied the cellist’s remark. The burnished tone and warmth they projected gently echoed Wilhelm Furtwängler’s remark about Bach being the “greatest Romantic composer”.

Their Schumann was very fine, too.

Though the wait for Scharwenka was just a little over a hundred years, the chamber music fan, fortunately, doesn’t have to wait as long for the next Le Salon de Musiques concert. It’s less than a month away on 10 February. But you’ll forgive me, I hope, when I tell you that waiting around a few weeks for my next Le Salon de Musiques fix can sometimes feel like waiting for a hundred years.

-Ted Ayala, bachtrack.com







Tchaikovsky Spectacular - May 25th, 2013



Santa Monica Symphony under the direction of Guido Lamell


The Santa Monica Symphony under the direction of Guido Lamell presented the last concert at the Civic Auditorium in Santa Monica before the hall is closed forever. The orchestra performed an all Tchaikovsky program in what was described as one of the largest audiences ever at this historic hall. Guido was joined in the program with the renowned cellist Antonio Lysy

in his performance of the Variations on a Rococo Theme.


It will be very sad to lose this remarkable performing arts space to what might become just another office building. The crowd attending was so large that the parking lots filled up and hundreds were not able to attend the performance because of the ensuing traffic jam and some misdirection by authorities. Even so the concert was a brilliant success and the orchestra under the new baton of Guido Lamell made its new and great reputation as one of the premiere ensembles in Southern California.


The program opened with a unique rendering of the Sleeping Beauty Ballet Suite arranged by Guido. It is a work that Tchaikovsky considered his greatest composition and yet it is rarely heard in its entirety. Guido chose the best parts of the whole suite to tell the story of Sleeping Beauty and narrated the work to the audience throughout the performance in his unique and light-hearted style. You had a chance to experience the life of Princess Aurora and her re-awakening 100 years later by a kiss from Prince Florimund. That kiss is portrayed with a giant Chinese gong in the orchestration or as Guido described to the delight of the audience, “one hell of a kiss.” The performance was truly wonderful even if I was also playing in the orchestra. Guido conducts with a

passion that affects all who have the privilege to listen.


The cello performance by Antonio Lysy, also a Santa Monica resident, was also played with passion and heart. This is one of the great solo works of the Tchaikovsky repertoire. Antonio has almost a regal air about him as he presents the opening theme and variations that often test the artists abilities as they were played with an ease of execution and always with sincerity. The audience was on its feet at the end of the performance. Antonio is now professor of cello at UCLA since 2003.

He combines his teaching with a brilliant international solo career.


The second half began with the great Symphony #5 by Tchaikovsky. This is easily the most famous of the Symphonies by the composer. The performance was romantic in the extreme as Guido was able to take every liberty in the interpretation with this great orchestra. Musicians to mention in particular were the principal bassoonist, Brittany Seits and principal horn, John Petring in wonderful solos throughout. The winds as a group were certainly over the top and the dynamic range of this performance would rival any orchestra in this country. I have had a chance to play this work with some of the great conductors of the past 40 years

and I would certainly consider this interpretation in my top 3.


The concert ended with the finale from the 1812 overture with canons (electronic) blaring. The audience was for-warned about the canons with a short demonstration in advance both for an opinion and to prevent any unnecessary medical problems. Of course, everyone voted for LOUDER. It was a great ending to a great concert and a sad ending to a great hall.

The question is, what now will be the future of this concert space.


We proved that this hall can be sold out and that this is really the true home of the Santa Monica Symphony. Meetings are being held at the beginning of June to discuss the potential demise of this great facility. We ask now that all who would like to join the discussion try to attend these meeting and Save the Civic Auditorium of Santa Monica. Use it, remodel it, rebuild it, but do not destroy it. Here is a note from Guido Lamell about this dilemma. “save the civic auditorium, ; www.saveourcivicauditorium.org


“Some of you may have seen the flyers that were being handed out and were posted about a proposal in front of the City Council for redeveloping the Civic Auditorium into condos, offices park and some restaurants! I was horrified to see this. We must fight such proposals even though they’ve made a strong case that this will pour lots of cash into city coffers. There are city council meetings planned on June 4th and June 11 that I plan to attend and I’d like to ask as many of you as possible to

plan to come to these meetings to make our voices heard.


If they tear down the Civic Auditorium, it can only be in order to build a better one. We cannot miss this opportunity!”


The Santa Monica Symphony will have a booth at the 22nd Annual Santa Monica Festival next Saturday in Clover Park from 11:00 am until 6:00 pm. You will have a chance to hear some of our members perform in chamber ensembles and lend your voice to endeavor to save the Civic Auditorium.


- Geoffrey Maingart, hollywoodtoday.net





Reimagining The Santa Monica Civic Auditorium


We sat on uncomfortable seats in Santa Monica’s beloved Civic Auditorium on Saturday. A full house was there for the Santa Monica Symphony Orchestra’s “A Farewell Tribute to the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium.” The all-Tchaikovsky program included a gorgeous performance by Antonio Lysy of “Variations on a Rococo Theme for Cello and Orchestra.” The “1812 Overture,” written by Tchaikovsky in 1880 to commemorate “the defense of the motherland,” concluded the program and the significance of the piece was not lost on the audience. When Conductor Guido Lamell closed the evening with a promise to be back at the Civic there was great applause.

Built in 1958 and given Landmark Designation in 2002, the Civic was known worldwide as the home of the Academy Awards. 1968 was the last year the Academy Awards were held at the Civic. The awards ceremony was held late that year

because of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


The Civic has been the venue for artists and performers who are part of the cultural history of the Country: Andre Previn, Dave Brubeck, Pete Seeger, Ella Fitzgerald, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Ray Charles, Arlo Guthrie, the Beach Boys, the Carpenters, Bill Cosby, Jonathan Winters, Allen Ginsberg, the Rolling Stones, James Brown, Sarah Vaughan, and Bruce Springsteen.

Designed by Welton Becket and Associates, the Historic Resources Technical Report cites it as “an excellent example of International Style design as applied to an auditorium. It was also considered an engineering marvel noted for its use

of hydraulics for raising and lowering the floor for multiple uses.”


“Functionally obsolete” was the description of the current state of the Civic by John Altschuler, a former Santa Monica City Manager and the Chair of an Urban Land Institute (ULI) panel discussion on the building’s future. The ULI does think the Civic can be saved and has ideas for how to understand the urban design problem and how to finance the revitalization.


The panel was one of many outreach events held since the October 7, 2012 Council meeting where staff was directed to, in Jessica Cusick’s words, “beat the bushes to get public and expert opinion on a vision for the future of the Civic. The Council had two goals: to retain the cultural use of the Civic and to identify funding in light of the loss of Redevelopment Funds.”


Cusick is the Cultural Affairs Manager for the City. She has been pursuing both goals and reports that there is “significant interest in revitalizing the Civic as a cultural venue by private sector businesses. Given the interest from both the public and the private sector in preserving the Civic as the cultural heart of our city I am optimistic that we will be able to put together a way to

fund the future of the Civic.”

The Civic is on the agenda for the June 11, 2013 Council meeting. Council Member Winterer expects that will be the “beginning of discussions of public/private partnerships.”


A week before the Council meeting there will be a community meeting to discuss ideas for the Civic. The meeting will be held at Virginia Avenue Park, June 4, 2012, at 7:30 pm.


The public interest has been long and well expressed. The City has committed to protecting and revitalizing the Civic at least since the time of the original Civic Center Specific Plan. The Santa Monica Conservancy, the Landmarks Commission and other organizations have expressed support and an interest in working on good solutions.


“Save the Santa Monica Civic” is an organization founded in November 2012 by Landmarks Commissioner Nina Fresco and a coalition group of well known Santa Monicans, is committed to “restoring and enhancing the Civic’s place as a vibrant cultural and community hub, as well as saving its landmark architecture and continuing its celebrated heritage. We will seek to develop recommendations for a management approach that will be profitable and enable long-term efficient operation.

The coalition will help garner public support for any viable approach.”

When the Civic Auditorium was just an idea in the 1950’s, the Council established a Public Board to advise the Council on the development of the Civic Auditorium. Given the broad public support for the Civic and the high level of interest, doesn’t it make sense to create an advisory board for today’s needs, composed of both public and private sector members and staffed by the City Manager and Cultural Affairs Manager, for the planning part of the revitalization of the Civic?


According to Sepp Donahower that Advisory Board could be the precursor to a Management Board on the model of the Pier Board. Donahower was a pioneer concert producer who brought the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix and Janice Joplin to Los Angeles. He believes it can be made to be financially self -sustaining.


“The Civic will only work,” he said, “if it’s part of something bigger – a cultural commons. Give people a reason to go there, make it a fun thing. We could have a great public plaza and garden with wonderful places to drink and eat and listen to good music. Build an exhibition space that could also be used as a venue for films or a place to have weddings. Maybe follow ULI’s suggestion and add a boutique hotel. When you put sympathetic elements together it will create the environment for success, it will serve the entire Civic Center and energize the neighboring hotels and Main Street. It will be a connecter.”

Saving the Civic also supports the City’s goals for environmental sustainability. Certainly, as was written on a Santa Monica Conservancy sign at the Main Street parade, “The greenest building is the one that already exists.”

Let’s revitalize and keep the Civic. Let’s also look at the idea of creating a Cultural District incorporating the Civic, using the adjacent parking lot as a site for a new building, compatible in scale and character but having its own identity, and create an art park that surrounds both buildings.


Saving the Civic is the right thing to do for so many reasons. It’s time now for all ideas to be on the table to help us get from where we are now to once again having the Civic Auditorium be the cultural ambassador of the City.

We honor our history, we protect our cultural future, we enhance our international reputation, we support our commitment to sustainability, and we support our business community. It is an exciting challenge and one I think we’re up to.

- Susan Cloke, Santa Monica Mirror