For my birthday present this year my wonderful daughter took me to a concert at St David’s Hall, Cardiff last night. What a treat! The event was the opening concert of the 2008 Yehudi Menuhin International Competition for Young Violinists, which has been described as “The Junior Olympics of Violin Playing”.
The competition takes place every two years and is open to violinists from around the world under the age of 22. This is the 25th anniversary of the competition and there were 156 applications from candidates of 34 different nationalities, This year 20 Junior and 22 Senior participants of 19 nationalities were selected to take part and their average age is 16. Amazingly the youngest contestant is just 10 years old.
During the eight days between the opening and closing concerts there are several musical events in and around Cardiff in addition to those featuring the contestants. More information is available from the competition website.
Last night’s concert opened with the Overture to the Marriage of Figaro by W. A. Mozart, played by the Menuhin Competition Orchestra conducted by Maxim Vengerov. This was followed by Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins in D minor featuring previous competition winners Akiko Ono and Hrachya Avanesyan. The contrasting styles of these young violinists was fascinating: Akiko Ono calm and so graceful with barely an unnecessary movement, while Hrachya Avanesyan was emotional animation personified. Their performance was superb.
The next item was the World Premier of the Elegy for King Arthur by Welsh composer Mervyn Burtch. This featured Akiko Ono again but with harpist Catrin Finch and the choir Serendipity, and conducted by Timothy Rhys-Evans.
Later Catrin Finch played an unscheduled solo for us based on a popular Spanish tune. This piece demonstrated not only Catrin’s excellence as an instrumentalist but also how she has grown as an entertainer. The audience enjoyed it, she enjoyed it, and it showed.
Hrachya Avanesyan’s considerable prowess as a violinist was demonstrated again in Ravel’s Tzigane, conducted by Paul Watkins.
The concert finished with Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D major Opus 35 with Joshua Bell as the soloist and the Menuhin Competition Orchestra conducted by Maxim Vengerov. This piece is one of my personal favourites and Joshua Bell did not disappoint. Indeed his performance was stunning.
It has been a long time since my last attendance at any sort of live music event. After last night, that will have to change.