Triumphant return for Bermuda Festival father
1995 Last night, Bermuda welcomed back the maestro who changed the face of music on this Island.It was an emotional evening in which Lord Menuhin surely captured, too, the hearts of a younger generation. As his old friend, Sir Edwin Leather remarked in his speech which preceded the Bermuda Festival's 20th anniversary concert, Lord Menuhin was the "father and mother of the inspiration from which alone this Festival and this (Menuhin) Foundation grew,'' and who "through his humanity and compassion,'' has become "the world's most beloved musician.'' His Lordship, equally gracious, replied that the concert was for him, also, "a very great moment.'' Whether he retained these charitable sentiments as the audience, 20 years after the first Festival, still clapped at the end of each movement, is anyone's guess.The evening opened in suitably celebratory fashion with the invited Festival Orchestra (with many present and past members of the Foundation) playing Handel's "The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba.'' Under the baton of Graham Garton and led by Philip Burrin, one of the Foundation's first teachers, and now with the BBC Scottish Symphony, the orchestra immediately established a rich and vibrant tone and an air of confidence that never deserted them in this demanding programme.Lord Menuhin's first work was Vivaldi's "Concerto No. 10 in B minor,'' a work in three movements which reflects the composer's own prowess on the violin.Unusually, a quartet of violins joins the orchestra in a display of technical virtuosity, admirably met by Diane Hamilton, Kerry Haslam, Carolyn Burr and Sarah Bridgland, and well supported by Alison Johnstone's cello.It was touching to note, incidentally, that Lord Menuhin himself applauded the four soloists as they walked onstage, before guiding them with such rapt and loving attention through the nerve-racking technicalities to follow.Next, there was the quintessentially English music of Edward Elgar's beautiful "Introduction and Allegro for Strings'' -- again, a piece chosen to demonstrate the virtuosity of the strings and featuring as soloists, Philip Burrin and Suzanne Dunkerley, Kate Fraser and Alison Johnstone.Students of the Foundation, playing in the Menuhin Youth Orchestra under conductor Carolyn Burr, and led by Dene Swan, had their well deserved moment of glory as they played for Lord Menuhin, "Somewhere Out There.'' They achieved an extremely pleasing sound, wisely selecting a piece that would not over-tax their abilities.The second half of the programme was devoted to Mozart, who wrote his "5th Violin Concerto'' when he was 19 -- only three years older than the Chinese student who was the soloist in last night's performance. Wei-Wei-Lee,a student of the Menuhin School in England, already matches awesome technique with sensitivity far beyond her years.From the moment the violin soared in above the strings, it was apparent that this young violinist possesses a remarkable talent, the first solo passage being played with great bravaura -- during which, one of the greatest violinists of this century momentarily lowered his baton to watch and listen in admiration.The melodic middle movement, which so exploits the glorious tonal qualities of the instrument, contains that undertone of Mozartian sadness, but this is followed in the final Rondeau by the well-loved variations on a minuet theme that fairly dances along. Magnificent accompaniment by the orchestra made this indeed a memorable moment in Bermuda's musical history.The programme ended with another favourite, Mozart's magnificent "Symphony No. 40 in G minor.'' Closing the score and conducting from memory, Lord Menuhin wrought a passionate performance from the orchestra in this work.Written at a time of private turmoil, only three years before his tragically early death at the age of 35, it is considered by many to be his finest symphony. A work of subliminal beauty, the underlying sense of melancholy is redeemed in the last movement by a recurring, rocketing theme of intense emotion. This was a magnificent culmination for the orchestra which had more than risen to the auspicious occasion.At the end, the entire audience rose to its feet in homage to Lord Menuhin, who has made such an orchestra, and such a concert, possible. -- Patricia Calnan LORD MENUHIN -- The virtuoso returns to the Festival he helped create.