Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Music at Menlo, week 2

During roughly the second week of the Menlo festival, I reviewed two more concerts: the "Leipzig" concert, which I found relatively easy to do - mostly familiar music, and pretty straightforward - and a viola recital, which was a bit more challenging, involving as it did close consideration of an instrument I couldn't even begin to play in some pretty abstruse repertoire. I wound up treating the violist's playing entirely separately from describing the works played, and in the process of drafting cut a lot of explanatory sentences about the playing which might have been useful to less knowledgeable readers, but which I thought looked too naive and elementary in context. At one point I added and then immediately cut a sentence explaining that I was not a viola player.

I've also been to a couple of prelude concerts, a couple of master classes, one of the student marathon concerts (at which a crisp version of the first movement of Dvorak's "American" Quartet was the highlight), and the last one of the year of what Menlo calls its Encounter sessions. These are lectures, usually by visiting experts, on topics related to the theme of the annual festival. They're ticketed and fairly expensive, and since I'm not reviewing them directly, and thus don't feel eligible for a comp ticket, I rarely go.

But I was added as a late substitute reviewer for the third week's Budapest concert, in place of my fellow reviewer who's actually Hungarian but can't make it, and I know little about Budapest, so I hoped the Encounter on Budapest and Vienna (which I'm also reviewing) would be enlightening.

It wasn't. The touted expert turned out to be an expert on prehistoric archaeology, and while he was very interesting on what we know of the cultural life of the Stone Age Danubian peoples, once we jumped to the 18th century his knowledge was much thinner and no more than mine, in truth. He also said a few things I wished to query factually, but my attempt to wait to catch his attention after the talk was pre-empted by the arrival of the festival directors, who wished to whisk him away for a late dinner, so I missed my chance.

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