In a marvelous feat of daring, this year's concerts focus on Mendelssohn, who turned 200 not long ago. Now, I love Mendelssohn and feel like he gets something of a bad rap because of his incredible facility, early genius, and the sheer prettiness of his music. Still. Does the Bay Area need two complete Mendelssohn string quartet cycles within six months? Do we need a second? third? performance of the Octet? Do Wu Han and David Finckel follow what's going on out here from their base in New York City? Given the Intertubes, they should, but....do they?
Yes, I know what you're thinking: the Pacifica's Mendelssohn is likely to be more incisive and interesting than the Alexander's - and you won't have to get up early on a Saturday to hear them play. (Your mileage may vary on Robert Greenberg, whose lectures accompany the Alexander's performances. M@M has tremendous-looking talks at the festival, called Encounters.) Yes, my mouth actually does water at the the thought of the St. Lawrence and Pacifica playing the Octet. And yes, there are a couple of typically weird and intruiging Music@Menlo concerts, like the one that includes some of the incidental music to you-know-what - but for piano, four hands - plus some Ligeti, a work by Spohr, and a Schumann piano trio.
There are Carte Blanche concerts of the Brahms violin sonatas, the Romantic cello sonata, and An Evening with Menachem Pressler, in which the pianist will play some four-hands music with Wu Han, Beethoven Op. 110, and Schubert's B-flat piano sonata, D.960, a demanding program at any age - and Pressler is 85. I confess to some concern over that, given problematic outings over the last few years with other pianists of Pressler's generation.
So, I'm torn. Yes, I'd love to hear these programs, because, well, great music and excellent performers. Each of the central programs is being performed three times, so presumably I will be able to get tickets. But oh - with all that talent on tap, how I wish the programming were more daring.