South Park Magazine

Salon Style

Every seat in the house at The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art’s Music and Museum living room concert series is a good seat.

That’s because the concerts take place in someone’s (stunning) home—and every vantage point offers a good view. “You could even stand behind the pianist and look over his shoulder,” says Christopher Lawing, the Bechtler’s vice president of programming and research.

And lest you think “salon” equals “stuffy,” Lawing assures, “This is very relaxed.” It’s a late afternoon cocktail party— but one with beautiful, live music.

The setting last November was the elegantly rustic lakefront home of Catherine and Wilton Connor, longtime supporters of the series. The series pays tribute to the Bechtler family, the art- and culture-loving family who donated their significant personal art collection that begat the modern art museum that bears their name. The Bechtlers were patrons to visual artists and musicians in their native Switzerland. “They often held concerts in their home,” Lawing says. “There’s a lot of history here.”

This concert series even predates the Bechtler. The museum took over programming of Charlotte Chamber Music, including its living room concert series, when the organization folded in 2012 during the economic downturn. Many season subscribers have followed the series since its earliest days, but the museum has attracteda host of new concertgoers, too. (The Bechtler’s acquisition of the Living Room concert series was an addition to their already successful Music and Museum program.)

Molly Sloan has been involved since Charlotte Chamber Music days—and it was in existence for 15 years before the Bechtler took over—and she continues to be an avid supporter. “This is chamber music the way it ought to be heard,” she said at the Chopin Salon at the Connors’ home, where an all-star line-up performed for 65 guests.

Pianist and former Brevard Music Center director Bruce Murray led the program in November. Joining him were internationally acclaimed violinist Rosemary Furniss, Charlotte Symphony Orchestra associate principal cellist Jon Lewis, and former WDAV radio host Jennifer Foster Roe, former producer of the station’s Radio Chopin series. (Roe gave a wildly melodramatic reading—sample line: “Death called in all its beauty”—of a poem Kornel Ujesjski had set to Chopin’s music.) Her husband, Ben Roe, artistic advisor for the series, served as emcee. Murray played the Connors’ magnificent 5’8” Petrof. (Petrof, Catherine says, has been making pianos in the Czech Republic since 1884.)

Like all the homes where a living room concert is hosted, the Connor home is filled with beautiful furnishings and exceptional art. An oversized wooden sculpture by James Borden mounted above the piano seemed to keep time like a metronome. That’s because it’s actually a working clock. Wilton Connor commissioned the piece for his 2002 retirement. While music is the star of the living room concerts, food is a vital co-star. At the Connor event, waiters passed butternut squash soup garnished with toasted sunflower seeds and smoked chicken on toasted brioche with cranberry aioli. After the performance, guests enjoyed local cheeses, Vidalia onion crab soufflé, wild mushroom risotto cakes, miniature crab cakes, and grilled beef tenderloin.

The sun was setting as the music grew more bittersweet before the set concluded with Finale from Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 8. Guests discussed how watching the light change—out the back windows, over the pool, and out to the lake beyond—as the music changed tempo was a special part of the experience. When Wilton Connor thanked the musicians and guests, he encouraged everyone to stay, eat, drink, and mingle. And he closed by saying, “Please. Take the opportunity to gush.”

This is music—and an experience—worth gushing over.

Tickets for Living Room concerts are $80 per person for non-members and $65 per person for members of the Bechtler. Pre-concert cocktail receptions and post-concert hors d’oeuvres and desserts are included in the ticket price. Purchase tickets online, at the admission desk or at 704-353-9200. Learn more at www.Bechtler.org.

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