Wu Han recently headed west to the San Francisco Bay Area for the opening of Music@Menlo’s 2011/2012 Winter Series, which featured a stunning recital by the sensational young pianist Inon Barnatan. A musician of remarkable imagination and creative breadth, Inon captivated Music@Menlo’s audience with his poignant program and musical skill.
In Wu Han’s words…
The first weekend of October, I had the great opportunity to travel out to the Bay Area to launch Music@Menlo’s second annual Winter Series. The Winter Series was created in 2010 to bring world class artists and great chamber music to the Music@Menlo audience throughout the year. This season, our audience was in for a special treat as the remarkable young pianist Inon Barnatan opened the winter series with an imaginative program entitled Darknesse Visible. Having last appeared at Music@Menlo during the summer of 2010, I was eager for our audience to experience Inon’s special artistry in this solo recital.
As I shared with the audience before Inon took the stage, David and I are so proud that Music@Menlo has played such an integral role in supporting the careers of many aspiring young artists. Anthony McGill, now principal clarinet of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; Arnaud Sussmann, an upcoming concert violinist; and Erin Keefe, recently named Concertmaster of the Minnesota Orchestra (a post that was most recently held by longtime Music@Menlo favorite artist, Jorja Fleezanis); are just a few of the artists presented on Music@Menlo’s main stage before their respective careers have blossomed. David and I both remember years ago, when we were young artists, receiving valuable support from a few key presenters. The chance that they took on us helped build the careers that we sustain today. We are passionate about supporting exceptional young artists in this way, and it is wonderful to see the Menlo audience enthusiastically embrace and support these extraordinary musicians.
As Inon explained to the audience upon taking the stage, several of the works he performed were inspired by poetry and are connected by a sense of darkness lying beneath the music. His program began with Debussy’s lovely Suite bergamasque, a piece that was inspired by the poetry of Paul Verlaine. One of Debussy’s most beloved works, the suite is perhaps most famous for the third movement, Clair de lune. The Debussy was then followed by Thomas Adès’s wondrous and haunting Darkenesse Visible, based on John Dowland’s lute song from 1610 entitled: In Darknesse Let Me Dwell. Thomas Adès is one of the most exciting and imaginative composers writing music today and I was thrilled that his music was being introduced to Music@Menlo’s audience. Before the intermission, Inon skillfully tackled one of the piano literature’s most challenging works, Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit. As a pianist, I was glad at that moment to be in the audience! The second half of the program featured the wonderfully imaginative Fantasy on Peter Grimes by Benjamin Britten (arranged by Ronald Stevenson), and culminated in a commanding performance of Schubert’s poignant Sonata in A Major, D. 959, one of the last works Schubert wrote before his young death.
I am extremely proud of Inon’s intelligent programming and artistic vision that he brings to each and every one of his performances. He is a pianist of remarkable imagination, as manifested in his curating of “The Schubert Project” — an exploration of Schubert’s late solo song, piano works, and chamber music, originally conceived for The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Inon has also presented this project to great critical acclaim at Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw and the Library of Congress. It was thrilling to hear Inon play this extraordinary program so beautifully, and it was gratifying to see our audience brought to its feet. After the performance, Inon signed CDs and was greeted warmly by many of our audience members who commented on his powerful performance which truly brought the music to life. In 2012, Inon will be releasing a CD entitled Darkness Visible, featuring many of these same works. It is certainly a disc you will not want to miss.
Inon greets audience members following his recital.
It was a very moving experience to see the Menlo audience embrace this extraordinary young musician, and David and I both look forward to featuring and taking the chance, so to speak, on other exceptional young artists in seasons to come.
Music@Menlo’s Winter Series continues Feburary 12 when festival favorites pianist Alessio Bax, clarinetist David Shifrin, and flutist Tara Helen O’Connor join forces with an ensemble of the world’s elite wind players from The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center—including Stephen Taylor (oboe), Peter Kolkay (bassoon), and Radovan Vlatković (horn)—in a program that features the extraordinary chamber music written for winds and piano by French composers.
April 29, the Jupiter String Quartet, one of America’s most exciting young chamber ensembles, returns to Music@Menlo for a special afternoon of masterworks from the string quartet repertoire: Haydn’s String Quartet in F Major, Prokofiev’s Second String Quartet, and Schubert’s final quartet, the colossal and expressive String Quartet in G Major, D. 887.
Photos courtesy of Music@Menlo: Tristan Schulz, photographer