It is with great sadness that we learnt this week of the death of our much-loved trustee Geoffrey Lewis. Geoffrey became a trustee in 2013 when Saffron Hall Trust was first formed. Formerly a lawyer, he was passionate about education and music and so was a perfect fit for our Board. Geoffrey was good-humoured, witty and an endless source of good advice and inspiration. He was a dear friend to me and always seemed to know when I’d had enough and needed to be extracted from the office for a ‘good lunch’. Geoffrey was a lawyer of great standing and provided hours of expert free legal advice, but it is as a lover of music that I will remember him. The last concert he attended at Saffron Hall was the last before lockdown, Festival Strings Lucerne with Midori. He was moved enough afterwards to send me a review of that concert, and I would like to share that with you.
Beethoven Violin Concerto
Midori played the concerto with the Lucerne Festival Strings at Saffron Hall on Friday night. She is a tiny, slender figure on the platform. She does not produce a big tone but it is of great purity and sweetness. She is wonderfully agile but with too much taste to have about her any slightest vestige of exhibitionism. The whole work was presented as a miniature in which the detail is of paramount importance. The audience was kept on the edge of its seats and not allowed for a moment to sit back and let the music wash round it. It was a completely convincing interpretation of the concerto. All raucousness and rhetorical flourish eliminated, and we were made to listen. This was particularly so in the larghetto, a dynamic marking calling for some spaciousness but only so much. There was an enraptured quality of peace throughout the movement which seemed to make the audience hold its breath, until the moment of release when the larghetto gave way without pause to the bucolic melody of the final rondo.
The Lucerne Strings led by Daniel Dodds were correspondingly restrained. There were two trumpets without stops, a timpanist and slender wind resources. The strings predominated. There were moments of heart-stopping beauty. One such came towards the end of the cadenza in the first movement when the solo violin as orator speaks against the softest pizzicato accompaniment of the entire string band.
I do not hope to hear a more satisfying or beautiful interpretation than this.