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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

SCRUTINY | Jonathan Crow Offers Powerful, Fiery Tribute To Legendary Violinist Yehudi Menhuhin

By John Terauds on July 31, 2018

Jonathan Crow and Philip Chiu perform at Toronto Summer Music. (Photo: James Ireland)
Jonathan Crow and Philip Chiu perform at Toronto Summer Music. (Photo: James Ireland)

Toronto Summer Music Festival: A Tribute to Yehudi Menuhin — Jonathan Crow (violin), Philip Chiu (piano). Walter Hall. July 30.

Toronto Summer Music Festival artistic director Jonathan Crow delivered a powerful tribute to the power of music as a force for good on Monday night as he celebrated the legacy of legendary 20th-century violinist Yehudi Menuhin at Walter Hall.

Given without intermission, the 80-minute program was a collection of highlights from Menuhin’s World War Two-era performances for troops and civilians in support of the Allied War effort and, immediately following the conflict, reconciliation between warring peoples.

The great American-born virtuoso, who died in 1999, played serious works from the classical canon to audiences that would not necessarily have been familiar with this music. He won them over with his commitment and charismatic interpretations.

Crow, who had the great fortune to meet and briefly work with Menuhin while growing up, embodied both the commitment and charisma in a recital that began with one of the fathers of composition for the virtuoso violin, Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713) and ended with Maurice Ravel, who himself wore the scars of conflict from World War One.

Although the program’s Menuhin connection was meant to echo this year’s festival’s “Reflections of Wartime” theme, the evening’s music was shot through with themes of freedom, of letting loose with fresh ideas, and perhaps a bit of rebellion.

Corelli’s Sonata in D minor, Op. 5, No. 12, built on the familiar “la folia” theme, started the concert with virtuosic fireworks. Crow’s technique is remarkable, as is his poise and control. He is a master of modulating intensity and of getting a wide range of colour from his bow.

He followed with Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Kreutzer” Sonata, from about a century later. Typical of Beethoven’s envelope-pushing ways, the piece pulls mightily at the traditional sonata form, sounding far more Romantic than Classical. Crow walked the fine line between emotional fireworks and keeping a larger sense of the structure in mind.

The inner-movement variations provided another thread of continuity through the evening, while also giving Crow an opportunity to show his more tender and lyrical side.

The pianist is an equal partner in the Beethoven Sonata, and Montrealer Philip Chiu, who is becoming a regular guest in Toronto, was a magnificent collaborator. This pair performed together as if possessed of one mind, perfectly complementing each other in every way.

The official portion of the recital concluded with sugar and fire: Fritz Kreisler’s ever-popular trio of Old Viennese Melodies — surefire crowd-pleasing bonbons — and Ravel’s Tzigane, which is virtuosic fireworks incarnate.

Crow brought a pyromaniac’s dream of fire to his interpretation, leaving the full house clamouring for more.

The Festival’s artistic director chose a solemn encore to send us home: Kaddish from Ravel’s Deux melodies hébraïques (composed in the last moments before Europe descended into World War One).

That encore helped bring us all back to earth. It reminded us of the power of music not only to excite, but to soothe and, more importantly, also share and put into perspective the pain of people in distress.

Humanity continues to be haunted by unpleasantness — and music continues to be there to help.

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, the founder of Musical Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds
John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, the founder of Musical Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds
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SCRUTINY | Jonathan Crow Offers Powerful, Fiery Tribute To Legendary Violinist Yehudi Menhuhin

By John Terauds on July 31, 2018

Jonathan Crow and Philip Chiu leave a full house clamouring for more in a program celebrating the legacy of legendary 20th-century violinist Yehudi Menuhin.
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