Music@Menlo Programs Travel 'Round Europe

Janos Gereben on March 22, 2018
Music from great cities is featured by Music@Menlo this summer | Courtesy: Music@Menlo

Each year, the Music@Menlo chamber music festival has a theme — last year it was The Glorious Violin, in 2016, Russian Reflections, the year before, Schubert. This summer, the 16th season, it will be Creative Capitals, presenting the music of some of Europe’s cultural epicenters.

Running from July 13 to Aug. 4 on Music@Menlo’s three stages in Atherton and Menlo Park, California, the festival presents over 50 events, including seven main-stage concert programs each featuring music associated with one of the cities: London, Paris, St. Petersburg, Leipzig, Berlin, Budapest, and Vienna.

“A city is the embodiment of a civilized society,” write Festival Artistic Directors Wu Han and David Finckel in the season brochure. “Throughout history, cities have enticed our most brilliant, visionary, and restless souls seeking to pursue artistic destinies in stimulating environments.

Festival Artistic Directors Wu Han and David Finckel | Credit: Lisa-Marie Mazzucco

“While the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls are indeed natural wonders, great cities are indisputably among the most significant achievements of humankind, works of art in themselves ... This season, seven iconic cities serve as our festival’s musical stages — the music that has emanated from these cultural centers largely forms the canon of Western music, comprising an astonishingly diverse repertoire spanning some 300 years.”

Violinist Kristin Lee performs at the festival | Courtesy: IMG

The first program, on July 14, picks up on the 18th- and 19th-century cultural flowering of London, marked by the influx of great composers from the European continent as the city became one of the Western world’s musical capitals. Music@Menlo juxtaposes expatriate masters Handel, Mendelssohn, and Grieg with two homegrown voices of English music’s renaissance: Britten’s Suite for Violin and Piano, Op. 6, and Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Songs of Travel.

The St. Petersburg program, on July 21, will have music by Glinka, Arensky, Balakirev, and Shostakovich. Typical of the festival’s star power, musicians performing in this concert include Lyubov Petrova, soprano; Sara Couden, contralto; Kang Wang, tenor; Demarre McGill, flute; Stephen Taylor, oboe; Jose Franch-Ballester, clarinet; Peter Kolkay, bassoon; Kevin Rivard, horn; Michael Brown, Gilbert Kalish, pianos; Aaron Boyd, Arnaud Sussmann, violins; Matthew Lipman, Paul Neubauer, violas; David Finckel, David Requiro, cellos; Scott Pingel, bass.

The Budapest program, July 31, illustrates festival directors Wu Han and David Finckel’s consistent and fearless dedication to the 20th-century canon, set against classics, which always get their due. From the country that drew Haydn, Mozart, and Brahms to the folk music of Central Europe, Music@Menlo highlights Kodály’s Duo for Violin and Cello; Dohnányi’s Sextet in C Major for Winds, Strings, and Piano; Bartók’s String Quartet no. 5 and Ligeti’s Ballad and Dance for Two Violins.

Festival intermission scene at the Center for Performing Arts at Menlo-Atherton | Courtesy: Music@Menlo

Beyond the mainstage concert programs, the festival offers artist-curated Carte Blanche Concerts; a new Overture Concerts series with world-renowned artists working and performing with the young International Program musicians; 18 free performances by the young artists of Music@Menlo’s Chamber Music Institute; plus free master classes and Café Conversations.

A Carte Blanche event with special attraction is the Calidore String Quartet’s celebration of Vienna on July 19 — Haydn’s String Quartet in G Major, Op. 54; Beethoven’s String Quartet in C Major, Op. 59, no. 3, “Razumovsky,” Webern’s Fünf Sätze, Op. 5, and Langsamer Satz for String Quartet.

Just announced on March 22: the Calidore is among the four 2018 Avery Fisher Career Grants winners. The others are Xavier Foley, double-bassist; Francisco Fullana, violinist; and Drew Petersen, pianist.