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Music@Menlo 1

Posted at 6:07 AM on July 28, 2005 by Lauren Rico

What's that quote from Picasso—"art washes away from the soul the dust of every day life"? My soul was pretty dusty by yesterday afternoon. Too little sleep coupled with all those little travel nuisances did not have me in the best frame of mind when I made it to the Menlo School yesterday. I had to hit the ground running. There was just enough time for me to meet Wu Han and David Finckel (artistic directors of the festival) before being rushed off into a master class he was giving with a student quartet. I was tired and grumpy and hungry—and then they began to play. I forgot everything. I'd close my eyes for awhile, opening them every now and then only to be surprised see such exquisite music coming from four teenagers in jeans and sneakers. After they'd finished, David Finckel spent some time working a few spots with them and I was really struck by his sense of humor and how easily he related to these students.

Later that evening, Michael Steinberg gave a 2 1/2 hour presentation on Beethoven. I couldn't believe the applause when he stepped out onto the stage. This man is revered here, and for good reason. I have a special interest in the intersection of music with history and geography. Michael incorporated pictures, recordings and live performances into this "Encounter" that kept his audience (a full one, I might add) riveted.

Something that I noticed throughout the day was the way Wu Han just embraces everyone—literally and figuratively. She makes you feel like a part of the family. Her excitement for the festival is totally infectious.

So, there it is, day one. Today I'll sit in on a couple of coaching sessions and attend a master class in the afternoon. Tonight I'll enjoy more Beethoven, Haydn and Mozart (Horn Quintet—YEAH!) at the lovely, intimate Stent Family Hall. This is what they meant by "chamber music." I'm told that the demand for tickets is so high that they may have to cut some of the seats reserved for press!