Nicholas brings insight into Menuhin’s talents

The Friends of the Towner have been financially supporting the Towner art gallery for decades, but they have never limited their offerings for members and the general public to lectures on art.

On June 16 at the Birley Centre a great musician was in the frame - the violinist, conductor and educator Yehudi Menuhin.

Nicholas Chisholm, M.B.E. was the speaker. From 1988 to 2010 he was Headmaster of the Surrey-based school for specially talented young string-players and pianists which bears the Menuhin name.

Menuhin was himself a prodigy, performing and recording not only in his native United States but worldwide from early youth. What was he really like?

Nicholas knew and worked with him for many years, indeed to within days of Menuhin’s sudden death in 1999.

At the Birley Centre he not only gave a fascinating account of Menuhin’s life, but played excerpts from several of his iconic recordings, notably his incredibly mature and insightful “78 r.p.m.” set of the Elgar Violin Concerto on which as a young teenager he performed with the composer.

After the interval we were given an insider’s view of one of the most successful educational institutions in the world, where youngsters with exceptional talent can develop into great soloists: Nigel Kennedy and Nicola Benedetti spring immediately to mind.

Nicholas presented, in addition to the recordings, photographs of the buildings, of the fine concert hall there, and of such luminaries as the cellist/conductor Rostropovitch, who was also associated with the great man and the school.

The lively and balanced presentation ended with a question-and-answer session.

by Robin Gregory