A prince is part of lineup for three-week music fest
Chamber music's royal couple, pianist Wu Han and cellist David Finckel, are welcoming a bona fide prince to the 12th annual Music@Menlo Festival.
Wu Han is particularly excited that Prince William Lobkowicz-Maximilian, whom she calls “the seventh-generation descendent of Beethoven's pal,” is participating in this year's programming.
The focus of the three-week festival in Atherton — a lineup of hundreds of concerts, talks and presentations which opens Friday — is the great 19th-century Czech composer Antonin Dvorak, whose father was a butcher with the Lobkowicz family in Prague.
The family, whose princely story goes back to the fourth century, had a pivotal role in European history. Members were benefactors to Haydn, Mozart and other composers and artists, who in turn dedicated major works (including Beethoven's third and fifth symphonies) to Franz Joseph Maximilian Furst von Lobkowicz.
Music@Menlo founders Wu Han and her husband Finckel met the contemporary Lobkowicz during one of their European tours, and the three have collaborated on several music projects since.
The prince — who does not use the title in daily life — was born in Boston in 1961 and worked there as a stockbroker. In 1990, he moved to Czechoslovakia, recently freed from Soviet occupation, to claim his family's vast ancestral belongings. Today, the heir and trustee works professionally, and with passion, to restore, preserve and display the historical artifacts.
The Dvorak museum, in one of the Lobkowicz castles in the heart of Prague, houses a treasure trove of musical manuscripts.
Music@Menlo's third concert program, featuring works by Haydn and Beethoven, is called “The Lobkowicz Legacy,” and accompanied by several discussion-demonstration programs, including “Encounter II: A Royal Tradition,” led by Lobkowicz, who will share information about his family's history and its extensive collection.
Yet Music@Menlo's participants — world-renowned musicians and young artists receiving coaching and performance opportunities — aren't simply reveling in the distant past. Festival programming weaves a thread from Dvorak and his contemporaries to 20th-century innovators in Vienna and America.
For example, Wu Han draws a connection between Brahms' romantic quartets and Alexander von Zemlinsky's four neo-romantic quartets, which appear on a concert program featuring the Escher Quartet. The first quartet, from 1896, clearly belongs to the Brahmsian tradition, but the third, from 1924, departs from the tonal, influenced by Zemlinsky's brother-in-law, Arnold Schoenberg. The final one, from 1936, is dedicated to Zemlinsky's pupil, 12-tone pioneer Alban Berg.
A late addition to the festival is a presentation by Ara Guzelimian, provost and dean of the Juilliard School, called “Reflections on Alice Herz-Sommer: Music Saved My Life.” The program focuses on Herz-Sommer, a pianist who survived the Holocaust and died in February at age 110. A short documentary about her, “The Lady in Number 6,” won a 2014 Oscar.
IF YOU GO
Where: Center for Performing Arts at Menlo-Atherton, 555 Middlefield Road, Atherton; Martin Family Hall, Stent Family Hall, 50 Valparaiso Ave., Atherton
When: Friday through Aug. 9
Tickets: $20 to $78; many free events
Contact: (650) 331-0202, www.musicatmenlo.org
Program I: “Dvorak in Context,” 6 p.m. Saturday, Menlo-Atherton Center, $20-$68
Program II: “Viennese Roots,” 6 p.m. Sunday, Menlo-Atherton Center, $20-$68
Carte Blanche Concert I: Escher String Quartet, Zemlinsky quartets, 8 p.m. July 23, Stent Family Hall, $30-$70
Encounter II: “A Royal Tradition” led by William Lobkowicz, 7:30 p.m. July 24, Martin Family Hall, $20-$45
Program III: “Lobkowicz Legacy,” 8 p.m. June 26, Menlo-Atherton Center, $20-$68
Cafe Conversation: Ara Guzelimian speaks on Alice Herz-Sommer, 11:45 a.m. Aug. 8, Martin Family Hall, free