Mapping tunes with Music@Menlo 

The Music@Menlo chamber music festival is among the finest in the world, with its programs of renowned artists playing in ensembles, its spirited atmosphere, and the training it extends to young musicians.

It’s a festival that doesn’t need gimmicks.

Yet this eighth year’s theme, “Maps and Legends,” sounds a bit suspicious. What does it mean?

Cellist David Finckel and pianist Wu Han, the festival’s artistic directors, explain: “We’ve devised this season to offer each listener, whether a lifelong concertgoer or a newcomer to classical music, many levels of discovery. Expanding on the ‘Musical Odyssey’ of our second season, ‘Maps and Legends’ spotlights a number of distinct musical cultures and examines how, throughout our history, music has reflected and defined the experiences of exceptional times and places.”

Highlights from the eight groupings:

Today’s first program couples Vivaldi’s popular “Four Seasons” with the modern, seldom-heard “Music for a Summer Evening” by George Crumb, written two and a half centuries later and a continent away. The violinists alone represent the cream of the musical crop: Daniel Ching, Ani Kavafian, Erin Keefe, Philip Setzer, Ian Swensen and Sandy Yamamoto.

England is on the map next, Sunday through Tuesday, with works by Britten, Walton, and Elgar. Mezzo Sasha Cooke (getting rave reviews at recent San Francisco Symphony appearances), Finckel, Wu Han and the Miró Quartet are among performers.

On Aug. 4-5, the aftermath of World War II in Europe is examined through works by Richard Strauss (“Metamorphosen”), Shostakovich (String Quartet No. 8), and Britten (“The Holy Sonnets of John Donne”).

The bold final program on Aug. 13-14, “Dvorák’s America,” features the composer’s so-called “American Quartet” No. 12 with the Jupiter String Quartet, and his “American Quintet” Op. 97. Henry T. Burleigh spirituals, cabaret songs by William Bolcom and Barber’s “Four Songs” Op 13 featuring Sasha Cooke round out the concert. 

This year, more concertgoers will attend the festival. Along with Menlo School’s 140- and 180-seat halls in Atherton, and the 320-seat St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Palo Alto, performances will be at the new Menlo-Atherton Performing Arts Center’s state-of-the-art concert hall, which seats 492.


Music@Menlo Season 6

Where: Menlo School, Atherton; St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Palo Alto; Menlo-Atherton Performing Arts Center, Atherton

When: Today through Aug. 14

Tickets: $15 to $70, with many free events

Contact: (650) 330-2030,

This article was corrected Friday, July 23, 2010. The original article stated it was the festival's sixth season. It is actually the festival's eighth season.


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