Music@Menlo’s “Incredible Decades” Coming in July

Janos Gereben on February 26, 2019
Paul Huang (violin) and Wu Han (piano) take a bow at a Carte Blanche concert in 2018 | Credit: Geoff Sheil

Music@Menlo doesn’t believe in half measures. The chamber music festival, which became world famous in just a few years, thinks and acts big, attracting top musicians to perform before sold-out houses and providing priceless, career-launching tutoring for hundreds of young people.

Rather than putting programs together in a haphazard way, Artistic Directors David Finckel and Wu Han, assisted by Artistic Administrator Nathan Paer, Audience Engagement Director Patrick Castillo Patrick Castillo, and a staff plan each season meticulously, according to a thematic framework. In past years, the focus was on “The Glorious Violin,” “Russian Reflections,” “Around Dvořák,” and so on.

In the same vein, the festival’s 2019 season, announced today, presents a theme: “Incredible Decades” traces chamber music’s history in seven chapters, each a program dedicated to an especially rich and consequential decade in music. From the ascent of Bach in the Baroque era, through the apex of Russian and French Romanticism, to the artistic maelstrom of the new Millennium, the concerts — and many affiliated events — sum up 300 years of musical evolution.

Audience Engagement Director Patrick Castillo works with Artistic Directors David Finckel and Wu Han planning and administering festival seasons | Credit: Music@Menlo

The artistic directors say of the season: “Classical music’s vast depth and variety continue to provide us with summer after summer of new paths to explore. In the coming summer, we will reveal music’s extraordinary evolution in seven chapters, each a program dedicated to an especially rich and consequential decade.”

Finckel told SFCV that the festival’s search for sources of great music is an ongoing process, providing “intriguing and often thrilling explorations, gazing at music’s wonders summer after summer through a seemingly infinite variety of lenses.

“‘Incredible Decades’ is one of those many windows we open on music, looking at seven periods in history which each produced a wealth of great music. We’ll ask why, how, and by whom, and along the way, we’ll bask in the intellectual and artistic richness of each distinct period.”

The Escher String Quartet

These are the main concerts:

Program I — 1710–1720: Bach Ascending, July 13
Bach, Evaristo Felice Dall’Abaco, Telemann, Corelli, Handel, Albinoni, Vivaldi

Program II — 1790–1800: Beethoven Launched, July 17
Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn

Program III — 1820–1830: Classical Twilight, July 19, 21
Beethoven, Schubert

Program IV — 1840–1850: Romantic Revolution, July 25, 26
Schumann, Chopin, Mendelssohn

Program V — 1890–1900: Moscow to Montmartre, July 27
Josef Suk, Debussy, Brahms, Rachmaninoff

Program VI — 1920–1930: The Roaring Twenties, July 31
Ravel, Bartók, Gershwin, Korngold

Program VII — 1990–2000: Music at the Millennium, Aug. 3
John Adams, Bright Sheng, Krzysztof Penderecki, Mark O’Connor, Bruce Adolphe, Steven Mackey

Violinist Soovin Kim and pianist Gloria Chien will perform at one of the festival’s Carte Blanche concerts | Credit: Foundation for Chinese Performing Arts

The concert venue is the Center for Performing Arts at Menlo-Atherton; other events, such as the festival’s popular artist-curated Carte Blanche recitals, are held in Menlo School, which is located in Atherton.

The opening Carte Blanche concert, on July 14, features the husband-and-wife duo of violinist Soovin Kim and pianist Gloria Chien, performing music of Ravel, Bartók, Szymanowski, and other 20th-century composers. Carte Blanche II, on July 20, presents pianist Juho Pohjonen playing three Scriabin sonatas and a suite by Rameau.

The 2019 festival also features three Encounters, the festival’s signature series of multimedia symposia, as well as 16 Prelude Performances, and three Koret Young Performer Concerts, free preconcert and afternoon performances by elite young artists of the Chamber Music Institute, public master classes, coaching sessions, and Café Conversations — informal discussions on topics related to music and the arts.

The Encounter series is named in memory of Michael Steinberg, the eminent musicologist and San Francisco Symphony program annotator. The Encounter multimedia symposia are led by Bruce Adolphe, Ara Guzelimian, Michael Parloff, and R. Larry Todd.

David Finckel leads a master class, part of Music@Menlo's large-scale, multifaceted institute. | Credit: Music@Menlo

Of the two teaching-tutoring programs, Wu Han says: “A new roster of ever-more-astounding International Program artists waits in the wings to thrill us, as does the vibrant legion of Young Performers, always melting hearts and showing us the bright future of our art form.”

Another festival specialty is Music@Menlo LIVE, an exclusive recording label began in 2003, presenting many of the performances each season, engineered and produced by Da-Hong Seetoo, using state-of-the-art recording technology.

Among the 2019 festival’s guest artists, featured in performances, public events, institute coaching and mentoring:

Pianists Gloria Chien, Gilbert Kalish, Hyeyeon Park, Juho Pohjonen, Stephen Prutsman, Gilles Vonsattel, and Wu Han

Violinists Adam Barnett-Hart, Aaron Boyd, Ivan Chan, Chad Hoopes, Soovin Kim, Jessica Lee, Kristin Lee, Arnaud Sussmann, James Thompson, and Angelo Xiang Yu

Violists Hsin-Yun Huang, Pierre Lapointe, Paul Neubauer, Richard O’Neill, and Arnaud Sussmann

Cellists Dmitri Atapine, David Finckel, David Requiro, Keith Robinson, and Brook Speltz

Also, the Escher String Quartet of Adam Barnett-Hart, Danbi Um, Pierre Lapointe, and Brook Speltz; the Schumann Quartet of Erik, Ken, and Mark Schumann, and Liisa Randalu