Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Yehudi Menuhin School - Summer Festival Concert

The Menuhin Hall at the Yehudi Menuhin School
The Menuhin Hall at the Yehudi Menuhin School
Each year, the Yehudi Menuhin School in Surrey puts on a series of Summer Festival Concerts in their Menuhin Hall at which all the pupils at the school perform. This year we attended the evening concert on 29 June, the last of six such concerts. During the course of them all pupils played, and some appeared twice as pupils with piano as second study appeared in the role of accompanist. All the accompanists were pupils too, so that we saw a total of 17 pupils perform with ages ranging from 13 to 19 and a varied mix of nationalities, Chinese, Japanese, Canadian, Serbian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Israeli, Irish, French, German, Spanish and British. The school has an even balance of boys and girls but scheduling meant that we saw rather more girls than boys.

The musical programme was very varied; with only a five minute slot each, performers tended to go for lollipops of one form or another. But the programme had no duplications, and was full of delights especially as the choice of piece and manner of performance brought out the character of the performer. This was a very formal concert; it might have been in effect a school end of term jamboree, but this is a very special school with very special performers. The concert was as much part of the training as their daily lessons, involving correct dress and platform deportment as much as actual performance. And all the soloists played from memory (and even one accompanist did so).

Qing Qing Ponek (violin, age 13 from China) opened things, accompanied by Aleks Mladenova (piano, age 15 from Bulgaria) with Valse by Reinhold Gliere (1875 - 1956) and Spinning Song by Arthur Rubenstein (1887 - 1982). The Gliere was rather salon-ish but delightful with Qing Qing Ponek displaying a sweet tone, whilst in the busy Rubenstein she displayed an impressive technique.

Another violin/piano duo followed, Yuriko Matsuda (age 17 from Japan) and Katie Morgan (age 14 from the UK) performing Fritz Kreisler's arrangement of Dvorak's Songs my mother taught me, and Brahms's Hungarian Dance No. 2 in D minor. Matsuda brought richly expressive singing tone to the Dvorak, and a vibrant confident style to the Brahms.

Jean-Francois Carriere (cello, age 17 from Canada) and Damir Durmanovic (piano, age 15 from Bosnia) played an arrangement of Debussy's Clair de Lune and Concert Etude Op.55 No.2 'Jagdstuck' by the cellist/composer David Popper (1843 - 1913). Carriere had a lovely soft-grained tone and a nice sense of legato in the Debussy, with sensitive accompaniment from Durmanovic. As might be expected from a cello player, Popper's lively piece included some rather crazy technical challenges which Carriere demolished with aplomb.

Dorothea Schupelius (violin, age 18 from Germany) and Ursula Perks (piano, age 17 from the UK) played the Caprice Basque by the violinist/composer Pablo de Sarasate (1844 - 1908). Sarasate's piece was a pot pourri of Basque melodies, with virtuoso moments and Schupelius played vividly with confident technique and style. The piano rhythmic accompaniment was tricky but not grateful, well despatched by Perks.

Guitarist Daniel Penney (age 15 from Ireland) played Elogio de la Danza (Homage to the Dance) by Cuban composer/guitarist Leo Brouwer (born 1939). |After a spare and rather haunting introduction, the second section was a complex and very freely structured piece. Penney certainly made the guitar singing, and showed a good grasp of both technique and style.

The first half ended with Charlotte Saluste-Bridoux (violin, age 18 from France) playing the Violin Sonata Op.27 No.6 in E Major by the Belgian violinist/composer Eugene Ysaye (1858 - 1931). A one movement work in the style of a habanera, which gets really worked up, Saluste-Bridoux played it with vividly vibrant tone and a lovely sense of style.

After the interval David Horvat (violin, age 16 from Serbia) was accompanied by Damir Durmanovic (from Bosnia). They played the Czardas by Italian composer/violinist Vittorio Monti (1868 - 1922), this time with both performers playing from memory. After a lovely dramatic piano introduction, Horvat gave a performance which combined stunning technical skill (including some impressively crisp and fast passagework) with playing of real soul.

One of the youngest performers, Will Duerden (age 13 from the UK) played one of the largest instruments, a double bass, accompanied by Ursula Perks on piano. Though Duerden looked nervous, when he started playing his hands moved around the instrument with amazing speed, confidence and agility. He played the Variations on themes from Donizetti's La Sonnambula by the Italian composer and double bass player Giovanni Bottesini (1821 - 1889). It was a stunning performance, giving us some confident virtuoso playing, with sympathetic accompaniment from Perks.

Pianist Aleks Mladenova, who had appeared in the first half accompanying, returned in a solo role to play Chopin's Nocturne in B Major Op.62 No.1 with a flexible soft touch in a nicely fluid and poetic performance.

Tamaki Sugimoto (cello, age 19 from Japan) and Leyla Cemiloglu (piano, age 16 from the UK) played three movements from Five Pieces on Folk Themes by the Georgian composer Sulkhan Tsintsadze (1925 - 1991). After a soulful opening, played with a lovely sense of line, the middle movement was for unaccompanied cello played pizzicato which Sugimoto made into a real tour de force. The final movement was a lively piece with all sorts of virtuoso string techniques needed.

Lorena Canto Wolteche (viola, age 17 from Spain) and Menachem Rozin (piano, age 18 from Israel) played Constellation de la Couronne Australe by Guillaume Connesson (born 1970). At first the piece sounded as if it might have been by an early 20th century Spanish composer but then the solo part got quite manic and intense. Both Wolteche and Rozin gave confident and evocative performances of a distinctly tricky piece.

Finally Elvina Auh (violin, age 15 from South Korea) and Leyla Cemiloglu played the Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso by Camille Saint Saens. Auh played with consummate technique and a nice vibrancy of tone, bringing charm and a hint of wit the piece.

This was a delightful programme, full of charming delights and some lovely showing off. All of the performers acquitted themselves brilliantly, and many displayed a finely confident sense of style on the concert platform. All are names that I will watch out for.

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