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Cover story | PERFORMERS

Music is their world

October 23, 2003|Louise Roug | Times Staff Writer

The people who will use the Walt Disney Concert Hall most are the Los Angeles Philharmonic musicians. In the 100-plus orchestra, players span several generations and nationalities, having come from such places as Russia, China, Japan, Canada, Latvia and the United States.

Tamara Chernyak

a first violinist

Tamara Chernyak was born in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) where, at the age of 5, she picked up the fiddle.

She graduated from the Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory in 1970, and played with the Leningrad Symphony Orchestra. In 1974, Chernyak immigrated to the U.S. She joined the Phil in 1976.

In the new hall, there is no place to hide -- visually or musically. "You are seen from all sides, so you can't do anything unnoticeable," she says. Unlike the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion where sound could escape, "now you have to be careful because everything is heard. It works both ways: It enhances sonority overall but it also exposes every little thing so you have to be perfect."

Jonathan Karoly

a cellist

Jonathan Karoly was born in Chicago where he started playing at age 3. Before coming to the Phil, he received a bachelor's in music from the University of Southern California. One of the youngest members of the Phil, this is his first orchestra job.

In the new hall, Karoly says, "When you play, the sound is really coming out of the instrument," unlike the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion where "the sound goes away from you, and it doesn't stay with you. You play it and it's gone."

Now, "you're much more exposed," he says. "It feels like what you're playing actually matters."

The first time he rehearsed in the hall, Karoly says he was pretty shocked. "All of a sudden, I could hear instruments, certain passages and notes I hadn't heard before."

Catherine Ransom

a second flutist

Catherine Ransom was born in Minneapolis, where she started playing her instrument at age 10. Her mother was a harpist, and "she schlepped the harp around so I wanted to play something small."

She received a masters in music from the Juilliard School in New York. In 1996 she joined the Phil, where she met Karoly. The two are now engaged.

"If you can make a beautiful sound, you can certainly make it there," she says of the new hall.

"My initial reaction was: 'This is so much smaller and more intimate,' " she says. "When I played the first few notes, I thought, 'Wow, I really like my sound.' Usually, it just feels kind of yuck."

If she wasn't working there, she says, it would be "a place I'd want to hang out in."

But she's happy she's playing with the Phil.

"The eyes and the ears of the world are on us," she says. "It's the right time to be in this orchestra."

Martin Chalifour

principal concertmaster

Martin Chalifour was born in Montreal. He first picked up the violin when he was 4 years old. He graduated from the Montreal Conservatory. In 1996 he joined the Phil.

"It is a new kind of temple; it'll be a new religion for audiophiles," says Chalifour. "It's a place of beauty, and it's going to be a great listening experience," on a par with the Royal Concertgebouw in the Netherlands and the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in Moscow. But, he says, "It's a totally different atmosphere because of the contemporary architecture. That fits our specialty repertoire of 20th century and 21st century music." And, he says, it's one of the few large concert halls that has natural light.

The sound "was immediately very welcoming," he says, as if "you'd finally picked up an instrument that's much better than what you'd had. It relaxes you as a performer, so you can develop the colors of the sound."

The building and its challenges "also signifies a coming of age of the orchestra, finally being able to exploit the potential of everyone on stage and the collective."

And the seating behind the orchestra is interesting.

"Although you have to turn your back to somebody, the orchestra has many faces, we're not static," says Chalifour, adding that it does present one problem. "I'm not sure where we're going to take our bows."

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