The concluding days of Music@Menlo 2009 proved to be one of the most spectacular festival periods in memory. Events that thrilled, enlightened and brought the festival community to a new level of engagement grew in intensity to the final concert of the Mendelssohn Trios, performed for a completely packed audience at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church. Pianist Menahem Pressler, making his Music@Menlo debut at age 85, shared his 53 years of experience with the festival audience, students, and performers, beginning his residency with a solo recital in the Carte Blanche series, and a master class for the International Performers. Joining David Finckel and Menahem for the Mendelssohn Trios, and for Schubert’s Sonata in A, was Emerson Quartet violinist Eugene Drucker.
To view all of David Finckel’s Music@Menlo 2009 blog entries, click on the Music@Menlo category link on the upper right.
in David’s words…
The days prior included the Pacifica Quartet’s final concert of the Mendelssohn Quartet cycle, in which they added a movement from the string quartet by Felix’s sister Fanny, herself a highly gifted, prolific composer who, because of the custom of the time, was discouraged from pursuing a career as musician. It was her sudden death that plunged Felix into a deep depression, producing the raging, tragic Op. 80 string quartet that ended the program. Felix Mendelssohn never recovered from the death of his sister, experiencing a series of strokes in that took his life only five month’s after his sister’s passing, in 1847, at the age of 38.
Encounter Leader Ara Guzelimian, a Music@Menlo regular since the festival’s inception, summarized Mendelssohn’s life, took us through his last years, and explored the Op. 80 quartet with the assistance of the Pacifica Quartet. Ara revealed extraordinary musical moments that reflect Felix’s anguish during the composition of the work, and we all left his Encounter with an even deeper appreciation of Mendelssohn, and with profound sympathy for his final struggles.
On the same day as Ara’s Encounter, Menahem Pressler led a master class in Martin Family Hall, in front of an overflow audience, where he worked intensively on the sublime slow movement of Schumann’s Piano Quartet.
Unprecedented lines formed for all the events, outside the churches of St. Mark’s and Menlo Park Presbyterian, and the overflow for the student concerts was accommodated via video projection.
The tragic end of Felix Mendelssohn’s life was outweighed at the end by the joy his eternal music continues to bring to so many. The International Performers concluded their residency with absolutely brilliant performances, beginning with Mendelssohn’s Allegro Brillante for piano four hands, played by Fan-Ya Lin and Hye-Yeon Park.
Sunmi Chang, Hye-Yeon Park, and Romie de Guise-Langlois performed beautiful pieces by Bruch, and the concert concluded with the IP’s rendition of the Mendelssohn Octet, one of most polished and inspired performances we have ever heard in all the years of the program. Their concert, which was preceded by the final concert of the Young Performers, concluded the 2009 Institute on an exhilarating, joyful note that was truly incomparable. The following photos only begin to describe the feeling in the air, and it’s a pleasure to share them with you.
In the concluding days of the festival, Wu Han and I met with the International Performers to discuss ways in which the program could be improved. As always, their suggestions were very helpful in paving the way for the next season’s group of deserving young players.
And lastly, while we met with the festival administration on our final morning before departing for Korea, CMI teachers Ed Klorman and Dmitri Atapine kept the festival alive all on their own, improvising on folk melodies on the Menlo School lawn. As we rushed to our car, the sound of Music@Menlo had refused to die.
There are dozens of special people who deserve credit for making Music@Menlo the extraordinary festival that it is, from the musicians to the administrators to the staff, donors, board members and audience. Wu Han and I thank them all from the bottom of our hearts. But there are two members of the Music@Menlo team to whom we would like to pay special tribute this season:
Artistic Administrator Patrick Castillo has worked for me and Wu Han as an employee of our company, ArtistLed, for seven years. During this time he has grown to become universally admired and valued as a scholar, a writer, an interviewer, a producer, an educator and administrator. In assisting the Encounter Leaders every summer in the production of their presentations, he counts among his mentors the late Michael Steinberg, Ara Guzelimian, Robert Winter, R. Larry Todd, and all the other extraordinary scholars and teachers who have participated in the series. Patrick brings to his work a deep knowledge of music, being a singer and serious composer himself. Patrick is the producer of AudioNotes, having taken it over in short order from yours truly (perhaps he sensed correctly right away that he could do a better job of it!) and this involves not only writing the text, but setting up and recording the artist interviews, researching and securing the rights to the musical examples, and putting it all together via digital editing. In addition, Patrick is author of numerous other texts for Music@Menlo and for ArtistLed, including program notes, web site text, CD liner notes, and various institutional pieces. He has become a frequent panel moderator and interviewer for the Café Conversations series. Patrick is also the point person of the festival who organizes artists’ availabilities, determines who can play what and when, and helps us form each summer’s festival in detail. He is an administrator with the highest qualities of discretion and sensitivity to artists’ needs and wide-ranging personalities. Moreover, these qualities endear him to all with whom he works, needless to say, helping us get to “yes” over and over again during the course of a planning year. He is has become an invaluable, and almost frighteningly irreplaceable member of our team, and he has our deepest gratitude and continuing admiration. And, he’s not even turned 30.
Festival videographer Tristan Cook has become a ubiquitous, familiar figure at the festival, having been with us since the inaugural season, first as still photographer, and as of last year, film producer. Tristan came to our attention while still a student at NYU when he produced a short film on the Emerson Quartet, and he has since risen to become one of the finest classical music video producers anywhere. At Music@Menlo, Tristan is as much of an artist as any of us. We interpret the music, but in his daily videos, Tristan interprets the festival itself for a growing international audience on the web. Every work of his over this summer and last is a mini-masterpiece, capturing the festival from all angles, and, for the first time, allowing people who have never been with us to catch the true spirit of the festival. Tristan’s sensitivity to music (he is a violist) gives him a special advantage, enabling him to perfectly match music and image, capturing unforgettable moments and moods with vivid power. Tristan works as hard as any of us at the festival, filming from the early morning and editing until late at night. He is seemingly tireless, always in a lively humor, flexible, creative, sensitive, and ultimately inspiring, a real servant of music. We are fortunate to count him among our regulars, and we hope that despite his growing demand, he continues to count Music@Menlo as a priority.
Note: Tristan’s work for the Emerson Quartet’s Deutsche Grammophon projects can be found on YouTube, and his other projects may be located via his company web site, http://www.peachtoad.com
PARTING WORDS TO THE INSTITUTE STUDENTS
FROM DAVID AND WU HAN
To the students of Music@Menlo’s Chamber Music Institute
August 9, 2009
Dear CMI Students,
First, congratulations on completing this summer’s program. We are certain that the Institute’s expectations and opportunities are unlike anything you’ve encountered elsewhere, and we are proud of each and every one of you.
We believe that Mendelssohn would agree that we all successfully rose to the challenge of Being Mendelssohn. We are confident that every one of you had your “Mendelssohn moments” during the festival. Perhaps these included learning and performing a piece you thought beyond your ability; coaching a younger musician; encouraging and supporting your peers; trying your hand at a new skill (from reading Greek to ping-pong!); becoming the friend of a great musician or scholar; listening to a concert as you’ve never listened before; and, playing your instrument not just to satisfy yourself, but to spread the joy and nourishment that great music can bring to the lives of many.
On this day after the festival’s end, we are truly sad that we won’t be seeing your familiar faces tomorrow at morning meeting, hearing your rehearsals and concerts, and speaking to you as colleagues and friends. But we’d like to share one idea with you that can help make this experience last forever. All you have to do is add one word to the festival’s title: “Keep”.
Keep Being Mendelssohn. You can do it in your lives every single day. Expand your knowledge, take advantage of what the world can offer, seek out the best, expect more of yourself, take on new challenges, and help people who need you. Continue to share the joy of your music making with others as you have shared it with us. Your world, and world of those around you, will be a much better place for it. And someday a long time from now, when you go to heaven, Felix will welcome you with open arms.
Have a wonderful season, and please stay in touch with each other and with Music@Menlo.
All the Best,
David and Wu Han