SALON CLASSIQUE Chamber Music Series - Violin Recitals - Concert Introduction/Narration - Culinary-Musical Events
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SALON CLASSIQUE presents masterworks and hidden gems of chamber music in intimate settings, performed by outstanding local musicians and groups of the San Francisco Bay Area. The mission of Salon Classique is to make classical music more accessible and to be attractive to people who might be new to the genre. The series features lively introductions by founding director Karsten Windt. Often the musicians demonstrate examples of the program prior to their performance.
By choosing private homes and other small and special venues rather than a formal concert hall, we fulfill the wish of many listeners to enjoy music in a more relaxing environment and to discuss musical contents over a glass of wine. Less experienced guests can feel gently guided towards classical music, while musical connoisseurs enjoy extending their knowledge in a very entertaining way.

San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music:

Artist Highlight - Salon Classique

March 6, 2014



 (L-R) Dan Flanagan, Liz Prior, Jonah Kim, Photo by Kris Larsson


Salon Classique will be performing the second concert of the 2014 Chamber Music at the Legion series on
Sunday March 29, 12 - 1:30pm presented in collaboration with the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco.

Salon Classique presents chamber music masterworks and hidden gems in intimate settings. In this highlight, we hear from founder Karsten Windt about the beginnings of Salon Classique and what you can expect from the ensemble in this coming year.

1.   Describe your music in ten words or fewer

Salon Classique offers intimate opportunities to absorb chamber music excellence.


2.   Tell us how Salon Classique came about and what holds it together

Starting in 2006, Maestro Kent Nagano and pianist Mari Kodama invited me to be a presenter, narrator and violinist at Forest Hill Musical Days. (This small neighborhood festival brings together experienced chamber players from all over the world to perform a well-rehearsed repertoire in a private setting.)  I found it to be a little piece of heaven, and it later provided the inspiration for Salon Classique.

As I found myself in San Francisco more frequently and became friends with other chamber musicians in the Bay Area, I realized how much I enjoyed bringing quality music to this community. I also wanted to do so throughout the year. Hence, Salon Classique was born. With that, I left behind the safety of a twenty-year-long first violin job with the Deutsche Symphony Berlin and my beloved chamber music group, the Akanthus Ensemble Berlin, to start a new life in California.

To accommodate last-minute scheduling dates and adequate rehearsals, a variety of musicians perform with Salon Classique. Some are members of the SF Symphony, the Opera or teach at the Conservatory, while others are independent musicians who play with several chamber groups and regional orchestras. For instance, the concert at the Legion of Honor will feature Dan Flanagan, concertmaster of Sacramento and Modesto Symphonies, and Jonah Kim from the SF Ballet Orchestra, who are both joining us for the first time. Liz Prior, principal violist of Marin Symphony, on the other hand, will play this concert as she did the very first one of the series. Since the programs and line-ups are always rotating, the format seems to inspire both the musicians and the audience.

The soul of Salon Classique, though, is our good chemistry, as we share the need for finding truth and common musical understanding in our performances. And the love for presenting music to an intimate audience outside the traditional concert hall.


3.   What is in the works for Salon Classique in 2014?

It is my hope that Salon Classique will continue to grow and become more organized this year. While past concerts were planned randomly as the venues became available, we now aim to streamline and plan entire seasons ahead of time. We will continue to perform music in private homes throughout the Bay Area, but we are also reaching out to public or commercial spaces that offer the same intimacy. Performing in the beautiful Pearson Theatre at Meyer Sound in Berkeley was a first step in that direction. 

Another area I hope to see growth is in fundraising and promotions. Coming from Germany, where public money is still available to maintain a vivid classical music scene, it was necessary to learn how concerts are financed in the US. And up until now, we have only needed to rely on word of mouth for attendance. Therefore, fundraising activities, a new website and administrative help are all on the short list, until we can present the next season's program.

As for the music itself, I hope to expand our repertoire. Having played a lot of Argentinian Tango in Berlin, I aim to include some in our classical programs. And with the digital world allowing greater access to more music, I am excited to search for undiscovered masterpieces, worthy of being presented to our local audience.


4.   Any ideas on how to bring musical performance to the people? or ideas on how to engage new audiences through musical performance?

I often found myself sitting on stage of the Berlin Philharmonic Hall playing a concert and wondering how much of our musical language was really understood by the audience. Or were people there because it was expected they attend or did they just want an excuse to dress up? I began to feel the need to talk to my audience, to share what I love about a piece of music and explain what makes it special. That became an important part of my work with the Akanthus Ensemble Berlin, it brought me to San Francisco, and it became the core idea of Salon Classique.

We present our music along with stories about the composers and the pieces we chose, about our findings during the rehearsals, including amusing anecdotes, and we usually play a few examples before running the whole piece. This gives attendees a chance to learn, to laugh, to listen more carefully and enjoy the music more intensely, without feeling they must be experts.

Like a guide for an art exhibition, we try to approach the audience at their level, rather than expecting them to come to us prepared and with a printed program already digested. The intimacy of our venues helps us to connect and get to know each other. The audience can sip on a glass of wine and relax during a performance. We feel chamber music performances should be just that…not only concerts but also social experiences.

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