You saw where President Obama attended some sort of entrepreneurship conference at Stanford last week? Yes, well, with or without the President, that conference pre-empted most of the guest parking lots on campus, so I didn't get to much of the annual Chamber Music Seminar that was going on at the same time. I heard just one of three lunchtime concerts, with the host ensemble, the St. Lawrence Quartet, playing Haydn's Op. 20 No. 2, and two pianists, one of them the inevitable and invaluable Stephen Prutsman, banging out a brief but lively suite by Milhaud.
Sunday mid-day was the marathon finale, in which each of the student, amateur, or young professional ensembles - that had come to the seminar to learn from the St. Lawrence, Prutsman, or other masters - got to play a movement from their repertoire to the general delectation. There were 21 of them, a typical number, and the process usually takes about 4 hours.
I got through 8 of them before my phone buzzed - of course I'd set it on vibrate; what do you take me for?; and I'd tested it beforehand to make sure this would work right - with a text message from B. that it was time to go pick her up from her mountain retreat. In these marathons, the least accomplished groups tend to go first, but they rapidly improve. The best one I heard was four shaggy guys calling themselves invoke (without a capital) who played the Burletta from Bartok's Sixth Quartet with the kind of jaunty comprehension that I expect to hear at Banff. Unusually, they also got an encore, in which they transformed themselves from a string quartet into violin, cello, mandolin, and vocalist, and gave us Stephen Foster's "Hard Times Come Again No More."
That and the previously-reviewed Silicon Valley Music Festival have been occupying my free time, along with another Yelp invitational special, this one a large gathering for a tasting meal at a haute-yuppie Asian fusion place in the gleaming depths of reconstructed downtown Sunnyvale. As before, most of the attendees were intensely characteristic young people, friendly withal - two of them even sent me Yelp friend requests later that very evening, which I was happy to accept - but more interested in taking Instagram photos of their food than eating it. The restaurant, in turn, seemed primarily interested in serving us fried battered food - fried baby corn, fried shrimp (the best of the bunch), fried potstickers, fried chicken, fried fish, fried rice, and then fried noodles for dessert, with only a chow-mein style noodle dish and some vegetable curry to break the flow - curiously retro behavior for such a trendy place. The food was mostly pretty good, but the accumulation was a bit much for me, and I gave it 4 stars, which is supposed to be a good rating on Yelp but is actually like a prof under grade inflation giving you a B. When the Yelp manager who'd arranged the event wrote to ask what was wrong, I summarized the problem and she replied, "Thanks for keeping it real," a remark which I thought perfectly encapsulates the whole ethos I was visiting here.