Wednesday, April 28, 2021

South Bay chamber music—A Covid season retrospective 1

Robert Thies, Artistic Director of the South Bay Chamber Music Society.

The South Bay Chamber Music Society

The final concert of the South Bay Chamber Music Society's 2020-2021 season—under the Artistic Directorship of Robert Thies and pre-recorded and livestreamed at the usual 3:00 p.m. start time on mid-month Sunday afternoons—marks a useful point at which to take a look back at how our local chamber music organizations in LA's South Bay area have handled their live audience-less seasons—and in the context of the various approaches of a wider spectrum of concert-giving bodies to the challenges of maintaining a presence during the long Covid-19 cultural drought.

The range of streamed content, usually via YouTube or Facebook, has generally fallen into three categories— video recordings from archives, truly live performances, and newly recorded material. Coping with Covid has perhaps been most difficult for bodies whose MO involves large performing forces—pre-eminently opera companies and full-size symphony orchestras—and many perforce have fallen back entirely upon their recorded legacy of past achievement.

Others, however, have managed to produce new recorded content, as in the case of the Pacific Symphony, whose spacious platform in the Segerstrom Hall has enabled performances of works that require less than the orchestra's full complement played by members comfortably socially distanced. While these short concerts have free viewer access on YouTube, the PSO in common with some other companies is also experimenting with more ambitious productions "reimagined for the virtual space" with purchased ticket access.

The Long Beach Symphony, by contrast, has kept its flag flying with "Musically Speaking", an innovative series of online conversations between LBSO Music Director Eckart Preu and a wide range of guest interviewees, ranging from instrumental soloists and singers to conductors, arrangers, and entrepreneurs. 

Due to the perils of technical mishap during transmission, performances streamed live as they are being given are pretty infrequent, and where they do exist they're usually by single instrumentalists in special circumstances, as with organist Christoph Bull's short recitals preceding Sunday services at the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles.

Coming at length to the streaming of pre-recorded material by smaller organizations like the SBCMS and Classical Crossroads Inc., while some others have opted for lightweight programs of popular extracts—perhaps with the notion that loss of freedom of movement also impacts audience powers of concentration—this emphatically has not been the case with the South Bay's enterprising promoters of high-quality chamber music recitals. Both bodies fielded 2020-2021 programs that displayed no artistic compromise compared to their previous seasons before live audiences, except perhaps in that the South Bay Chamber Music Society went for overall playing times of around the one-hour mark, as opposed to the previous full-length duration of 90 minutes or so, plus interval.

The uncompromising seriousness of repertoire and the high performance standards familiar from the past, with the provision maintained of authoritative downloadable program notes, can be seen and heard at the following links, with fully professional, multi-camera, video presentation and high audio quality captured at Pacific Unitarian Universalist Church, Rancho Palos Verdes, the SBCMS's usual venue for its Sunday concerts:

(Tereza Stanislav, violin; Rafael Rishik, violin; Robert Brophy, viola; Andrew Shulman, cello)
SCHUBERT; Quartettsatz D. 703
MOZART; String Quartet in D Major, K. 575
RAVEL: String Quartet in F Major.

(Robert Thies, piano; Lucia Micarelli, violin; Eric Byers, cello)
The Schumann-Mendelssohn Connection
SCHUMANN: Piano Trio in D Minor, Op. 63
MENDELSSOHN: Piano Trio No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 66

(Edith Orloff, piano; Roger Wilkie, violin; John Walz cello) 
MARTINU: Bergerettes
BRAHMS: Piano Trio No. 1 in B Major, Op. 8

(Sergio Coelho, clarinet; Max Opferkuch, clarinet; Amy Jo Rhine, horn; Gregory Roosa, horn; Judith Farmer, bassoon; Elliott Moreau, bassoon)
MOZART: Serenade in E Flat, K. 375
GERNOT WOLFGANG: Three Short Stories for clarinet and & bassoon
BEETHOVEN: Sextet in E Flat, Op. 71

(Steven Vanhauwaert, piano; Movses Pogossian, violin; Brian (Che-Yen) Chen, viola; Clive Greensmith, cello)
MOZART: Piano Quartet No. 1 in G Minor, K. 478
DVOŘÁK: Piano Quartet No. 2 in E-flat Major, Op. 87

(Alyssa Park, violin; Shalini Vijayan, violin; Luke Maurer, viola; Timothy Loo, cello)
BRITTEN: String Quartet No. 2 in C Major, Op. 36
MORRICONE: Ricordare (from Pure Formality, arr Maurer)
SHOSTAKOVICH: String Quartet No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 110

(Robert Thies, piano; Phillip Levy, violin)
BEETHOVEN Violin Sonata No. 7 in C minor, Op. 30 No. 2
BRAHMS: Violin Sonata No. 1 in G major, Op. 78.

Like all other performing organizations, the SBCMS will be looking forward—with both hope and anxiety—to the resumption of live concerts with audience present. Whether or not this will be possible by the 2021-2022 season opening in the fall, only time will tell. 

But either way, live or streamed, the Society's decades-long record of professional chamber concerts free to the public still requires generous sponsorship in order to continue. If you have enjoyed any or all of the streamed recitals listed above, or indeed have attended the SBCMS's previous seasons, please consider making a donation here!

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