“Violins are the lively, forward, importunate wits, that distinguish themselves by flourishes of imagination, sharpness of repartee, glances of satire, and bear away the upper part in every consort”.
So commented Richard Steele in The Tatler, circa 1710, now quoted on the walls of the Royal Academy of Music gallery. Here, surrounded by Stradivarius string instruments, a luthier’s workshop and signed photographs of Yehudi Menuhin with Edward Elgar, Richard Barnard and I began an inspiring first day on our new project for Live Music Now; a musical-sculptural collaboration called ‘Menuhin’s Violin’.
Evan Dawson, Executive Director of Live Music Now, had kindly arranged for us to meet with Zamira Menuhin Benthall, daughter of Yehudi Menuhin, at the Royal Academy of Music, so that we could begin this exciting new commission by learning more, first-hand, about Zamira’s father, world-renowned violinist and visionary, whose life and legacy we will be celebrating through our collaboration.
As we met together in the serene setting of the Royal Academy of Music gallery, immersed in classical music history, Zamira vividly recounted her personal reflections of Menuhin, and as we listened, we recorded these illuminating memories so that we might weave them into our work as the project evolves.
There was Menuhin in Switzerland, running bare-footed on grass, up and down the garden, as part of his pre-concert preparations. There was the overwhelming sense of horror Zamira had felt on visiting Bergen-Belsen concentration camp last summer, as part of the Menuhin centenary events; here she glimpsed the trauma that her father had witnessed when he played his violin to the camp’s survivors in 1945. In every reminiscence that Zamira described, there was a strong consistent narrative, which evoked the deep love and understanding she had shared with her father.
Such profound and personal accounts of this musical luminary have not only been a privilege to listen to, but will be invaluable to the development of our project, as we seek to illuminate the figure and legacy of Yehudi Menuhin for new audiences in the coming months.
Heidi Hinder, Artist
With many thanks to Zamira Menuhin Benthall, the Royal Academy of Music and Evan Dawson.