Summer nights filled with music
There is very little more soothing to the heart and mind than filling soft summer nights with music. And there is little more appealing music than chamber music, with its kaleidoscopic variety and soul-searching intimacy.
Of the many music festivals that fill our summers with their sweetness, Music@Menlo is one of the best. For three weeks in a number of charming venues around an idyllic Peninsula town, some of the most acclaimed chamber musicians in the world gather to celebrate music by presenting seven concert programs. As if that weren’t delicious enough, the festival also provides four lectures, four recitals, 13 free “Prelude” performances and master classes.
This year’s festival theme is “Maps and Legends,” and the concerts follow this restless idea of time and place, opening on July 23 with a concert that features Vivaldi’s Baroque masterpiece, The Seasons, followed by contemporary composer George Crumb’s Music for a Summer Evening, an airy and shifting soundscape created for two amplified pianos and percussion. A brilliant and inspired program that will inaugurate the festival’s new venue, the Center for Performing Arts at Menlo-Atherton.
The following six concerts highlight different musical countries in contrasting and specific times. The second concert, “The English Voice,” showcases the 17th-century English master Henry Purcell alongside the early 20th century’s Edgar Elgar and William Walton in three performances starting Sunday, July 25 through Tuesday, July 27. The program opens with Benjamin’s Britten’s lovely “A Charm of Lullabies,” sung by mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke.
The other concerts include “Vienna,” from 17th-century Haydn to radical 20th-century Schoenberg and everything in between (July 31, August 1 and 2); “Aftermath,” music from the post-World War II milieu of Europe with works by Britten, Shostakovich and Richard Strauss (August 4 and 5); “La Ville-Lumiere: Paris, 1920-1928,” an homage to the surging creativity of expatriate Paris (August 7); “Spanish Inspirations,” 20th-century Spanish composers de Falla, Albéniz and Turina who used traditional Spanish motifs and French composers Debussy and Ravel who were in turn inspired by the Spanish (August 9 and 10).
The closing concert, August 13 and 14, lands us solidly in the New World with “Dvořák’s America,” presenting work by the Czech master and his American colleague Henry T. Burleigh. The program also illustrates the evolution of American song since Dvořák’s time, featuring music by twentieth-century American masters Samuel Barber and William Bolcom.
To enhance your listening and your life, the Festival also provides a series of multimedia symposia led by classical music’s most renowned authorities. These symposia, titled Encounters, follow the several concerts, giving valuable insights into the music and are a joy to the listeners.
Recitals, masterclasses and youth concerts fill out the rest of this extraordinary and comprehensive festival programming. Listings, performers and a calendar of all the many events in this superlative festival can be found at the website www.musicatmenlo.org. Check it out, then pull your skates out of the closet and glide on down to Menlo for the festival experience of the summer. It just doesn’t get any better.
Photo: Music@Menlo’s cofounders David Finckel and Wu Han