Francois Chouchan is a pianist with a distinguished international career and a visionary producer of chamber music. In 2007 he moved from his native France to start a new musical venture in Los Angeles. He wanted to create his own company and produce chamber music as it was originally done. He wanted audiences to experience “music without walls.”
For the past three years or more, as the CEO and Executive Manager of the Angeles Concerts Artists Corp, he has done just that. Since his arrival in Los Angeles, he has performed as a pianist in many prestigious chamber music events. These positive experiences led to his creation of the Le Salon de Musiques (The House of Musicians). An eclectic chamber music series of eight concerts, these affordably priced events include French champagne and gourmet food. Chouchan’s inspiration for this kind of presentation comes from the French court of the 18th century.
In a phone interview this past Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, Mr. Chouchan, speaking in English with a noticeable French accent, talked about some of the joys and challenges of producing his chamber music series. Unlike the east coast where he could hire established groups of string quartets, trios and more, there are few such ensembles here. He notes that since Los Angeles is “the capital of the movies” the top players are often very busy working in studios or with prestigious orchestras in the area. However, he said he has been fortunate to find “wonderful musicians that have become friends” who can prepare polished chamber music within limited rehearsal times.
Chouchan candidly shared that for chamber music, players need to enjoy working together. He explained that, “I never want to push a musician to perform in my series with another musician, if they don’t want to, or don’t feel good with the other person. And this is one of my goals for Le Salon De Musiques – that we are all happy to perform and share this music with people. And I’m sure this is the same for the musicians.”
The following are more excerpts from the interview:
How has your artistic life changed with your move to America?
This country gave me a great chance. As you know in Europe it’s very difficult to find new opportunities to perform. It would have been almost impossible to do Le Salon De Musiques, in France. It would have taken many years to form my musical company, Angeles Concerts Artists. It is so complicated to build a new company in France. The administration is so complex. Here, in America, they give you the chance.
You have a new co-director, the cellist John Walz, a member of the successful Pacific Trio and principal cellist with the LA Opera, among his many credits. When and how did Mr. Walz come on board?
He has just joined this year as co-director. He is such a wonderful cellist and I’ve known him for some time. I felt such a good connection with him that I asked him to become co-artistic director and he accepted. He will become more involved in next season’s programing.
Of course he will participate this season as a performer. In our opening concert, he did drop by but only at the end. That afternoon, he had been performing downstairs (as principal cellist) in LA Opera’s production of Don Giovanni!
Do the musicians meet and rehearse alone, or do you attend rehearsals too? How does that work?
Good question. Most of these top classical musicians are really busy people. In Europe, when I was preparing concerts with my colleagues, we were rehearsing a lot. Here in Los Angeles, and we must say it – this is a reality – people don’t have time to rehearse too much! I didn’t feel good about it at first. It was something scary for me when you have to perform and you don’t rehearse too much. But, that is the way it is. Now, I’m used to this. Sometimes I attend a rehearsal (of the musicians contracted for the season), if there is time.
In the opening concert that I reviewed, on Oct. 14, the US Premier of the Lyapunov Piano Sextet, was incredible. Are there any plans for a CD recording of this?
This season, I am in contact with a few record companies, because we are having five USA premieres! And the premieres of these pieces are so beautiful and inspiring. I can’t imagine that we will only perform them just one time. I am asking all the performers to accept to record each live performance. And, we have been doing this as well so far, and also a video film.
I see that you have one singer this season, singing Brahms. Do you intend to program more singers in the future?
You know, it’s a strange thing. Between the instrumental chamber ensembles and the singing world there is a wall. I love singers. You can’t have instrumental chamber music on one side, and singing on the other. It’s another wall, and one that I’d like to cast aside. So yes, I want to make more connections between the singer world and the chamber world. For our next season, I am working on that.
Le Salon De Musiques’ third season, opened with their first concert on Oct.14, 2012. Concerts run through May, 2013, at the 5th floor of the Dorothy Chandler pavilion, every second Sunday, from 4pm to 6pm. Tickets are $65 for individual concerts, and include French champagne and gourmet buffet from Patina. Special package prices for the entire series are also available.
For more information: www.lesalondemusiques.com