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Music@Menlo: Maps and Legends

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Read my latest CD review published in the Sunday Arts section of the Washington Post:

Charles T. Downey, Music@Menlo’s ‘Maps and Legends’
Washington Post, July 24, 2011

available at Amazon
Maps and Legends, Music@Menlo
LIVE, 2010. $100.

[Buy direct]
Music@Menlo, David Finckel and Wu Han’s summer chamber music festival near San Francisco, is generally organized around a theme that guides the programming choices each year. Last year’s theme was “Maps and Legends” — music that, according to the program notes, “explored a wide compass of times, places, and universal phenomena.” Since 2003, Grammy Award-winning sound engineer Da-Hong Seetoo, who produces the recordings of the Emerson String Quartet (of which Finckel is a member), has recorded all of the festival’s concerts in high-quality 24-bit sound. Finckel and Wu Han, the husband-wife musician team who run the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, have started releasing those recordings on Music@Menlo’s in-house label. As heard in this recently released eight-CD set of live recordings from the 2010 festival, the results are very good.

The opening-night concert, featured on the first disc, paired Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” with George Crumb’s 1974 “Music for a Summer Evening” (the third part of his massive piano opus “Makrokosmos”). The performances highlight the musical energy for which this festival is becoming known, combining veteran performers and teachers with their younger, hungrier counterparts. Ani Kavafian, a noted violinist and CMS regular, has the most adventurous solo outing, on Vivaldi’s “Summer” concerto, which gives evidence of her familiarity with current trends in historically informed performance practice (formerly known as the period-instruments movement). More evidence was present in harpsichordist Inon Barnatan’s improvisation in the slow movement of the “Autumn” concerto, while violin soloist Philip Setzer hovered over the score in sometimes harmonically disconnected ways. In the dazzling, odd Crumb piece, Wu Han and Gilbert Kalish (one of the work’s original dedicatees), on amplified and prepared pianos, joined two multi-tasking percussionists to create a completely different impression of the buzzing insects and heat-exhausted night reverie of summer. [Continue reading]

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