Posted at 2:27 PM on July 31, 2005
by Lauren Rico
Yikes! Last day already. I've done so much—but not nearly as much as I wanted to. Problem is that you can't be everywhere at one time—though the kids here at Menlo certainly seem to do a good job of it!
Today is actually a special day—it's the Music@Menlo open house. The support from the community here is overwhelming. They fill the lecture halls and sell out the concerts. They buy up CDs and T-shirts and posters. There is a tremendous sense of pride over this little festival and the caliber of artists and education it brings here for three weeks every summer.
Starting at 8:30 this morning, 40 people turned out for coffee, pastry and the ears of Menlo Artistic Directors Wu Han and David Finckel. It was an opportunity to ask questions and make suggestions. There was a little grumbling about concert seating but everything else people had to say was overwhelmingly positive. One woman became choked up as she thanked them for bringing this remarkable event to their community.
For the rest of the day the visitors were free to attend coaching sessions, master classes and concerts. One of the highlights was a "Café Conversation" given by Minnesota Orchestra Concertmaster Jorja Fleezanis. She talked to a packed audience in the Spieker Ballroom about the importance of proper presentation for a musician. She covered everything from how to make an entrance to what to wear—or NOT to wear, as the case may be!
"You see more and more skin on stage these days," Jorja began. "Just remember, there's skin, and then there's SKIN! Don't perform in anything that's going make you feel uncomfortable."
From there I caught up with one of the young quartets attending the festival. This year, rather than just auditioning individual musicians and assembling quartets, pre-existing ensembles were permitted to apply as a group. As a result the phenomenally good and surprisingly young Attacca Quartet were frequently performing. I'd first spotted them performing during Michael Steinberg's Beethoven "Encounter" on Wednesday night. I couldn't take my eyes off of them. They looked as if they had some kind of an inside joke between them as they played. Always smiling, cocking eyebrows at one another and somehow JUST managing to keep from cracking up in the middle of Beethoven. When I sat down with SoJin, Amy, Andrew and Gillian I wasn't surprised to find them laughing and joking. Every once in a while one of them would look alarmed and say, "That wasn't 'on the record' was it?" I think they're these four are so lucky. All that talent and the ability to really enjoy the journey.
The final concert I attended was at St. Mark's. I haven't really talked about this space. It's a church with great acoustics and atmosphere. The stained glass windows are propped open- no air conditioning here. As the concert starts it's still fairly light outside but as the sun sets twilight literally fills the sanctuary. For two and a half hours I was mesmerized by the Miró Quartet as they performed four of Beethoven's Opus 18 quartets back to back. And as if that wasn't enough… the audience wouldn't let them go until they played an encore!
Well, that pretty much wraps up my short time at this extraordinary festival. My colleague Mary Lee told me "Menlo does things to people!" It certainly did something to me.
Ms Rico: My son Andrew is the cellist of the Attacca String Quartet. Menlo was the Attacca's culmination of a long summer which started immediately after Juilliard let out in May, and this may have been as hard as they have worked as a quartet. Their days were packed from morining to late at night. Opportunities to interact with world class musicians were unparalleled. They also got to coach the younger musicians, and Andrew enjoyed passing on the advice his coaches and teachers had given him over the years. This was a phenominal opportunity and I know that they all appreciated the chance to perform and learn in an extraordinary setting. Thank you for the kind words about the quartet. We were pleased to have had the chance to hear them perform live at Menlo. (we live two blocks from George Mason U in Fairfax, VA). We are looking forward to your broadcasts.