“The Glorious Violin” is the fetching title for the 15th season of the Music@Menlo Chamber Music Festival. Founding Artistic Directors David Finckel and Wu Han explain:
The violin has shaped the very evolution of music itself, demonstrated by the earliest violin compositions of the Baroque period, through the performances of extraordinary virtuoso luminaries of the Romantic era, and by the pioneers of instrumental expression of the 20th century. The instrument ranks among a handful of tools whose design has remained largely unchanged for over three centuries, and no musical genre is more indebted to the modern violin family than chamber music.
And so, Music@Menlo will celebrate composers, performers, and violin makers, illuminating the violin’s history and looking at the unfolding of classical music through the instrument. Running from July 14 to Aug. 5, the festival offers more than 50 events on Music@Menlo’s three stages in Atherton and Menlo Park.
Events include main-stage concerts, artist-curated Carte Blanche Concerts, Encounter symposia, Cafe Conversations, master classes, and — my favorite — 16 performances by the young artists of Music@Menlo’s Chamber Music Institute.
The featured “Glorious Violinists” are Benjamin Beilman, Ivan Chan, Chad Hoopes, Bella Hristova, Paul Huang, Soovin Kim, Jessica Lee, Sean Lee, Yura Lee, Amy Schwartz Moretti, Arnaud Sussmann, and Danbi Um. Also treasured are violists Roberto Díaz, Hsin-Yun Huang, Paul Neubauer, and Richard O’Neill.
Programs range from the opening series of “The Path to Bach” (July 15) and the music of Carlo Farina, Marco Uccellini, Giovanni Battista Vitali, Pietro Antonio Locatelli, Giuseppe Tartini, Arcangelo Corelli, Antonio Vivaldi, and Johann Sebastian Bach, to the closing “National Favors” (Aug. 5), with performances of Bohuslav Martinů’s Duo No. 1 for Violin and Cello, John Corigliano’s Red Violin Caprices, Ernö Dohnányi’s “Gypsy” Andante, Dmitry Shostakovich’s Prelude and Scherzo for String Octet, Op. 11, and George Enescu’s String Octet in C Major.
An example of the Encounter series is the July 27 event, led by Ray Iwazumi. The Juilliard professor’s subject is the generation of virtuosi in the second half of the 19th century, playing works by Wieniawski and Vieuxtemps, a period during which brilliant technique was exemplified by Eugène Ysaÿe, who inspired a new generation of virtuosi led by Kreisler, Elman, Heifetz, and others.
Music@Menlo’s annual attendance now exceeds 13,000, with free program attendance at about 6,000. The festival’s $2.1 million annual budget supports participation by some 300 artists from all over the world. Besides performances, the artists also lead lectures and coach students of the Chamber Music Institute. One of the festival’s many educational projects is its Arts Administration Internship Program, which has worked with 253 interns.
Performances from the festival air nationwide on American Public Media's Performance Today, the largest daily classical music program in the U.S., airing on 260 stations and reaching more than one million people each week. Eighty-eight CDs and digital albums have been released on the Music@Menlo LIVE label, the digitized catalog is offered on Amazon.com, Spotify, and iTunes.