Resonance: Music @ Menlo 2012

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Albeniz,Bach,Beethoven,Debussy,Mahler,Schubert,Sibelius
LABELS: Music@Menlo
ALBUM TITLE: Resonance: Music @ Menlo 2012
WORKS: Music @ Menlo 2012
PERFORMER: Benjamin Beilman, Jorja Fleezanis (violin), David Finckel (cello), Juho Pohjonen, Gilbert Kalish, Jeffrey Kahane, Wu Han (piano); Escher Quartet, etc
CATALOGUE NO: Music@Menlo2012

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2012 marked the tenth season of Music@Menlo, the festival curated by David Finckel and Wu Han in the San Francisco bay area. The six discs here cherry pick from across the festival, its amorphous overall theme, Resonance, supposedly ‘exploring the many ways in which music resonates within the listener’. In essence this provides an excuse for roaming in many felicitous directions. Ultimately, works such as those on the fourth disc, Dvoπák’s F minor Piano Trio and Fauré’s Second Piano Quartet, need no peg to hang on, especially in performances such as these.

The opening disc of the set is atypical in that it treads familiar, if always welcome, fare, with Schubert’s Six German Dances nestling between his C major Fantasy for violin and piano and Beethoven’s E flat Piano Trio. Nonetheless, it is also characteristic in that the performances are never less than engaging and the type of ensemble is constantly varying. The invigoratingly diverse approach to programming is readily apparent in the second disc, with a probing performance of Sibelius’s Voces Intimae from the Escher Quartet, who are joined by baritone Kelly Markgraf for a haunting account of Barber’s Dover Beach. Pianist Jeffrey Kahane accompanies violinist Jorja Fleezanis for Chen Yi’s charming Romance of Hsiao and Ch’in, and is joined by fellow pianist Wu Han for a laid-back traversal of Debussy’s Six épigraphes antiques before finally claiming the spotlight for an insouciant performance of Albéniz’s Evocación. The surprise of the disc comes, though, with a surprisingly effecter chamber arrangement of ‘Das himmlische Leben’ from Mahler’s Fourth Symphony, though the resonant acoustic does mezzo-soprano Susanne Mentzer no favours. Elsewhere, close miking avoids any audience noise, but also slightly suffocates the sound.

Dance pervades the third disc, from Bach’s Suite No. 2 to Copland’s Appalachian Spring, via Strauss (arranged by Schoenberg), Debussy’s Danses sacrée et profane and Bartók’s Romanian Folk Dances. The final discs are full of delights, some unexpected, such as Respighi’s searching Il tramonto, a setting for mezzo-soprano and string quartet of Shelley’s poem ‘The Sunset’. Then there is the bonhomie of Moszkowski’s Suite for Two Violins and Piano, while it is always a pleasure to hear Schumann’s exquisite Märchenbilder or Caplet’s hair-raising Conte Fantastique. An exhilarating performance of Chausson’s extraordinary Concert provides the rousing climax to a very enjoyable set.

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Christopher Dingle