Monday, May 18, 2015

concert review: Music@Menlo

Got a last minute call from my editor: want to cover the clarinet concert at Menlo? My clarinetist friend was out of town, so lacking time for anything else I went by myself, finding that in fact the press tickets had to be organized at the door, and this after the overhead sign at the ticket table clocked me in the head.

I was a little nervous that, of 7 pieces on the program, I was only sure that I'd ever heard two before, but I figured that not many others would have heard many either. They all turned out witty and lively - my eventual seatmate had never heard of Paul Schoenfield before, but I had, and on being asked what to expect I said "If you think that Bartók piece sizzled, this one will burn your skin off."

This was important for a reason beyond what I got into in the review. Menlo poses as a kind of temple of chamber music, and an air of solemn worship of Greatness tends to suffuse the place. Fortunately the performances are usually very good, because when they aren't there's nothing left but a stuffy smell. That's why it's so interesting, as well as a little out of character, that Menlo should have chosen these pieces and not, say, one of the Brahms clarinet sonatas, which would have been more typical of them and which would have totally altered this concert's character, not to mention dampen its irrepressibility.

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