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July 19-25, 2006

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The Mumlers

In Charge: Wu Han (left) and Marin Alsop lead the way at Music@Menlo and Cabrillo, respectively.

The Beat Goes On

Music@Menlo and Cabrillo Festival kick off second fortnight of summer classical festivals

By Scott MacClelland


BELIEVE IT OR NOT, there are still dedicated music lovers just beginning to discover Shostakovich. The man is invariably a tonalist—and a frequent contrapuntist. He was as much a giant in the 20th century as Mozart was in the 18th. Both are featured at Music@Menlo during their anniversary years, Mozart's 250th and Shostakovich's 100th. As pianist Wu Han makes clear, "Putting Shostakovich next to Mozart will give our audiences an experience of two great minds from different historical periods."

Wu Han and her husband and co-artistic director David Finkel will perform Shostakovich's Cello Sonata in D Minor in Concert for Program 1, opening the festival on July 24 (the first time they will have played together here since they created Music@Menlo four years ago.) That program also contains Shostakovich's great Piano Trio in E Minor, a work that bristles with irony, sarcasm and despair—"full of double meanings," she adds.

There is no hint of despair in Mozart's music, but rather an inevitable quality of hope, "a Best Wishes for everyone," as Wu Han puts it. As the festival unfolds, Mozart will be joined by Schubert and Dvorék, Janácek and Brahms, Britten and Stravinsky, and Bach and Messiaen. (Cellist Colin Carr will play Britten's solo Suite no. 3 to honor the 30th anniversary of the composer's death.)

The festival also runs a popular Encounter series of full-length evening lecture/concerts that delve into the mind of Mozart through his music. World-class musicians make up the stable of performing artists at Music@Menlo, this year adding cellist Peter Wiley to the list for the first time.

Marin Alsop has given the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music such focus and intensity that patrons sometimes forget that its orchestra is performing works they've never played before, or even seen until they receive their parts in the mail. During an interview on a Santa Cruz radio station, one of the musicians admitted that upon opening his package of new scores he thought there was no way he could learn this music in time. To his surprise, other musicians, having heard the interview, told him they had felt the same way, thinking they were alone in that anxiety.

Alsop told me, "I am always impressed and thrilled after the first rehearsal with the orchestra. Every year seems to get better. The musicians arrive having really learned the notes and with the best possible attitude toward new, difficult music."

The festival opens July 29 with the first of three performances of a Philip Glass score to accompany the nature images of Frans Lanting's new volume, Life: A Journey Through Time. Composers in residence include such leading lights of new music as Glass, Michael Daugherty, Aaron Jay Kernis and Nicholas Maw, the latter to hear the suite from his recent opera, Sophie's Choice. Violinist Leila Josefowicz, mezzo-soprano Gale Fuller and percussionist Evelyn Glennie are featured artists, the latter also getting an entire evening of her own. After several concerts at Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, the festival concludes on Aug. 13 at Mission San Juan Bautista with the Maw, Newly Drawn Sky by Kernis and L.A. Variations by Esa Pekka Salonen.


Music@Menlo runs July 24-Aug. 11 at the Menlo School in Atherton and St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Palo Alto. For ticket info and schedules see www.musicatmenlo.org. The Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music runs July 29-Aug. 13 at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium and Mission San Juan Bautista. For ticket info and schedules see www.cabrillomusic.org.


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