Live at the Lounge: A shot of Brahms with a Schoenfield chaser

Pianist Yana Reznik casts a skeptical eye toward her young violinist Nigel Armstrong while cellist Indira Rahmatulla plays on. Photos


Comedy and Magic Club owner Mike Lacey took an unorthodox tact Saturday night to booking Live at the Lounge, his 90-seat music club next door to his comedy club. He scheduled five sets of classical music. 

According to the evening’s emcee, comedian Wayne Cotter, the decision had less to do with commercial calculations than with Lacey’s fond childhood memories of attending music salons with his uncle Franklin Lacey, who co-wrote “The Music Man” with Meredith Wilson. 

The self indulgence paid off with a near capacity crowd of appreciative classical fans who heard about the evening through Manhattan Beach resident Jim Eninger’s “Chamber Music Newsletter.” But the performances would have been equally appreciated by audiences at just about any of the other downtown Hermosa’s music clubs. 

The first set was a soulful performance, by cellists Indira Rahmatulla and Juan Egnacio Emme, of Viotti’s “Duo Concertino” and Glier’s “Three Duets for Cellos.” The two are principal cellists with the American Youth Symphony and students at the Coburn Conservatory. 

Then, violinist Nigel Armstrong picked up the pace with Paganini’s “Caprices for Solo Violin,” which, he warned the audience, “is a bit fast.” It was fast, as in fiddler Byron Berline playing “Orange Blossom Express” fast. 

In a recent interview the 19-year-old with a punk musician’s countenance said classical music’s appeal to him comes from its intensity. “It’s not relaxed music. I’m intense when I play because the emotions are intense,” he said. Armstrong is concertmaster of the American Youth Symphony. 

Pianists Yana Reznik and Anna Von Urbans sustained the intensity with Barber’s “Dance for Two with Piano for Four Hands,” followed by Brahms’ “Dances for Piano for Four Hands.”
An overhead projector allowed the audience to view the four hand “dances.” 

The Russian-born Reznik studied at the Rachmaninoff School of Music and has performed in music halls throughout the U.S. and Europe, including Carnegie Hall and the Lincoln Center. Locally, she has performed with the USC Symphony Orchestra and the Torrance Symphony Orchestra. 

Von Urbans is a winner of the Maurice Ravel International Piano Competition and is a frequent performer at LACMA’s “Sunday Live” series. 

Irish baritone Sam McElroy, after hearing he would be performing next door to the Comedy and Magic Club, decided to open his set with a shot at stand-up comedy.


Following the piano duets, Reznik accompanied Irish baritone Sam McElroy. Though McElroy more commonly performs in major opera houses, he said he felt at home at Live at the Lounge because it offered the two things the Irish love most – song and drink.
In a nod to Valentine’s Day he began his set with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “A Fellow Needs a Girl.” 

“The lyrics are a little dated,” he acknowledged, “but it’s a beautiful song.” Then he sang Lerner and Lowe’s “How to Handle a Woman,” which he similarly acknowledged “has a dubious title, but is also a beautiful song.” 

The evening ended with Armstrong, Reznik and Rahmatulla jamming together on what can fairly be described as a raucous rendition of Paul Schoenfield’s Café Music. Reznik’s hard driving piano dueled with Armstrong’s furiously fast violin while the cellist held the discordant sounds together. 

Classical music at Live at the Lounge will be presented again this Saturday, Feb. 20; Saturday, March 6, and Saturday, March 13. For more information call (310) 372-1193 or visit Live at the Lounge is located at 1018 Hermosa Ave. ER


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