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Classical Notes

Menlo: close encounters

Posted at 12:33 PM on July 25, 2006 by Brian Newhouse
Filed under: Concerts

The 100+ heat broke at sunset, so the Festival's first event was a sellout. This crowd is rabid for classical music and just as hungry for information about it. So guest lecturer Bruce Adolphe launched into the first of several talks that'll take us into the world of Mozart, who turned 250 this year (had you heard?) and is a central focus of Menlo 2006. Bruce has as many hyphens as Bernstein: composer-pianist-broadcaster-educator-lecturer-impresario, and every week on NPR's Performance Today he also plays a stump-the-audience game where he sits down at the piano and disguises a pop tune in the style of a famous classical composer. You can tell he adores having an audience in front of him, and if you picture a whip smart classical-music-loving Sid Caesar going deep into Mozart's Piano Quartet in G Minor, you have a good idea of how I spent 90 minutes last night.

The audience laughed nearly the whole way through. But Bruce also had a serious and surprising point for most of us: Mozart's music isn't just grace and beautifully classical proportion all the time. Mozart has as much to do with a kind of 'spoken' music. Listen to it and you can hear a kind of everyday language turned into notes. A sentence here, a half-repetition of it there, an emphatic aside to make sure you got the point—all very human and approachable. A great set-up to hear the whole Quartet in tonight's first Menlo concert.

Listen to previous years' concerts