Incredible Decades


(E) Summer is definitely my favorite season. And, Music@Menlo one of my favorite events of the summer. This year, the seventeenth season of Music@Menlo runs from July 12th to August 3rd, and intends to make us discovering or re-discovering chamber music through its most creative seven decades…

At the hands of Corelli, Vivaldi, Handel, and others, the music of the Baroque era reached new heights of complexity and expressive depth. But by the early eighteenth century, one supreme artist had emerged who would be recognized as history’s greatest composer three centuries later. The summer’s opening program brings together a colorful selection of music composed between 1710 and 1720, setting the stage for Bach’s resplendent First Brandenburg Concerto.

Mozart’s death in 1791 marked an abrupt end to one of history’s most incandescent artistic careers. The following year, the twenty-two-year-old Beethoven traveled to Vienna, where, under Haydn’s tutelage, he inherited—and then transformed—the Classical tradition. This dynamic program offers a snapshot of the eighteenth century’s final decade, when Haydn, the elder statesman of the Classical era, gave way to the voice of a new century.

In their final years, Beethoven and Schubert produced works of unparalleled importance to Western music history. Beethoven’s late works demonstrated such far-reaching vision that the composer himself conceded to his contemporaries, “They are not for you, but for a later age.” During this same period, Schubert quietly but assuredly created a musical language of newfound expressive intensity. Concert Program III brings together valedictory statements by these two giants, each written a year before the composer’s death: Beethoven’s final string quartet and Schubert’s epic Winterreise.

By the mid-nineteenth century, the Romantic age had reached its apex. The turbulence of the 1840s, from the conquest of the American West to the European revolutions of 1848, is vividly reflected in the decade’s impassioned music. In the works of Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Chopin—each a quintessential Romantic voice in his artistic maturity—we encounter the era’s unrestrained emotion and blinding virtuosity in full bloom.

As the twentieth century approached, German and Austrian dominance of Western music began to fade, giving way to a galaxy of voices from France, Russia, Bohemia, and beyond. The late music of Brahms, emblematic of German Romanticism, serves as an anchor in this program of music that spotlights a cosmopolitan collection of composers of the era.

In 1921, Russian influence expanded in the east, the Miss America pageant was born, and, for the first time, baseball was heard on the radio. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s immortal documentation of the hedonistic Jazz Age, was published in 1925. Four years later, Wall Street crashed, bringing a decade of prosperity to an end. These years likewise saw Romanticism’s cinematic legacy come to life in the music of Erich Wolfgang Korngold, while nationalist fervor found voice in Ravel’s Basque rhythms and Bartók’s folk-inspired modernism. Half a world away, a young George Gershwin emerged as an icon of the Roaring Twenties in the United States.

A brilliant mosaic of musical voices illuminated the twentieth century’s final decade. Composers had a myriad of influences in their ears, from the world’s folk traditions to rock and roll. While such luminaries as Krzysztof Penderecki helped us process the traumas of the past century, a new generation looked anxiously and eagerly to a dawning horizon. This summer’s final Concert Program presents the uncompromising modernism, yesteryear Romanticism, and forward-looking audacity of music at the turn of the century.

The program of the Roaring Twenties:

  • SERGEI PROKOFIEV – Five Melodies for Violin and Piano, op. 35bis (1925)
  • MAURICE RAVEL – Sonata for Violin and Cello (1920–1922)
  • BÉLA BARTÓK – String Quartet no. 3 (1927)
  • GEORGE GERSHWIN- Lullaby for String Quartet (ca. 1919–1920)
  • ERICH WOLFGANG KORNGOLD – Piano Quintet in E Major, op. 15 (1921)

and the program of the Music at the Millenium:

  • JOHN ADAMS- Road Movies for Violin and Piano (1995)
  • BRIGHT SHENG – Concertino for Clarinet and String Quartet (1994)
  • KRZYSZTOF PENDERECKI – String Trio (1990–1991)
  • MARK O’CONNOR – F. C.’s Jig for Violin and Viola (1992–1993)
  • BRUCE ADOLPHE – Couple for Cello and Piano (1998)
  • STEVEN MACKEY – Micro-Concerto (1999)

might be a good opportunity to discover chamber music that has probably been less played than the previous decades.

As it is always the case, the festival will offer besides live concerts performed by well-known professional musicians, lecture and discussion events, Master Classes, and Prelude Performances performed by the young artists of the Music@Menlo’s Chamber Music Institute.

When you go to Music@Menlo, not only you take the time to listen to accomplished artists but also you take the time to listen to the new generation of musicians. The festival unites up to three generations of musicians.

Note: The picture above is Menlo College where some of the performances will be held.

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Categories: Arts