Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Music@Menlo Chamber Music Festival
The cultural journalist Janos Gereben has been writing raves about the annual chamber music festival held in Menlo Park each summer, and insisted that everybody needed to check out their free student concerts being held at the architecturally beautiful 500-seat performing arts center that has just been built at the Menlo-Atherton High School (photo above).
Accordingly, I asked Mr. Gereben for a ride down the Peninsula, and a trio of us drove down 101 for some exquisite free music at the new building with its dazzling lighting array.
The festival, in its eighth year, is the brainchild of a legendary pair of married musicians, the pianist Wu Han (above) and cellist David Finckel that runs for three weeks every summer. In a nod to the Marlboro, Vermont chamber music festival, accomplished musicians engage with a small selection of artists whose careers are just beginning, and both groups give concerts together and separately. There's also a "Young Performers" section offering training and concerts by teenagers.
The free 6PM "Prelude Concert" started with Janacek's Sonata for Violin and Piano in a performance by Hye-Jin Kim and David Fung (above), which was okay but didn't quite get the weird spirit of the music. Part of the problem was that I heard this piece played live by Christian Tetzlaff and Leif Ove Andsnes last year in Herbst Theatre (accompanied again by Janos Gereben), and it was so perfect their rendition still hadn't left my memory.
The next piece was a String Sextet by Dvorak that was brilliantly played, with the proper amount of Slavic soul, and extraordinary contributions by Timothy Braun and Michelle Ross, violins, Molly Carr and Mario Gotoh, violas, and Alice Yoo and Gabriel Cabezas, cellos. (Pictured above left to right are Mario Gotoh, Molly Carr and Timothy Braun.)
First among equals was 25-year-old violinist Timothy Braun who not only performed beautifully but sported some of the best big blonde hair I've seen onstage in a while.
He had a hard time exiting after the concerts because the mostly elderly crowd all looked like they wanted to kiss him.