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Music by the Glass

Article by Secrets of Paris contributor Yvonne Shao

In Paris, there are many opportunities to hear chamber music, but this series is truly unique. It makes the music approachable.

Sinfonietta, a Paris chamber music organization, sponsors a series called Music by the Glass which features intimate concerts in small concert halls and private homes throughout the city. The same concert is performed on Friday and Saturday evenings, once in a hall and once in a lovely, spacious Paris home. Audiences usually number around one hundred, and such small gatherings mean there are no bad seats. Seating is not assigned, so you can decide on your place after you see the hall. These comfortable yet elegant venues let you experience chamber music the way it was meant to be heard--up close and personal.

Artistic director Michael Boone chooses the music carefully, and includes not only music that is familiar to chamber music lovers but more unusual works as well. The 2017-2018 season includes well-known masters such as Mozart and Ravel, and lesser-known composers such as Britain’s Frank Bridge; Germaine Tailleferre, who was the only female member of Les Six; and Debussy’s piano trio, which was lost for decades after his death and first performed in the 1980s. The concerts last about one hour, with no intermission. Before the concert Dr. Boone gives the audience background information on the the music and the performers (in English with French translation). The quiet setting and description of the music and performers lets the audience invest emotionally in the music, and the intimate setting and varied choice of repertoire are a welcome change.

The performers are all young people, graduates of some of Europe’s best conservatories, and currently working in orchestras or engaged in solo and chamber careers. These chamber groups perform throughout Europe.

What truly makes Music by the Glass unique is the afterparty. The evening is not over when the music ends: after the concert, everyone enjoys aperos and wine while mingling with the performers. The audience usually consists of French and expats, so dress is Paris casual and the conversation is lively and diverse.

Often in Paris, if we want to hear classical music in an elegant setting, we have to sacrifice either the music or the venue: Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is often played in Saint Chapelle or in other landmarks, and classical chamber music is played in larger halls that don’t do it justice. Music by the Glass off the beaten tourist path, and gives you a feast for the eyes and ears.

If you’d like to feel more like a Paris insider than a Paris outsider, these concerts are for you. It’s a true secret of Paris!

To purchase tickets for the next concert series June 15-16, visit the Sinfonietta Paris website. Tickets are €25 for standard tickets, subscriptions available.

Yvonne Shao is an American living in Paris. She blogs at Escaping the Empty Nest

Photos by @iheartparis Federico Guendel, courtesy Sinfonietta.


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