18 November 2009

Bailey on Menuhin at Killara

Last Sunday evening 15 November I had the pleasure of hearing Philip Bailey speak about the life and career of Yehudi Menuhin, whom he served in various capacities over a twenty-two year period. Philip has published the first volume of a two-volume biography of Menuhin (see Yehudiana: Reliving the Menuhin Oddysey), and the second volume will be out in the first half of next year.

Philip’s presentations are no ordinary lecture – they are a lively combination of narrative, video clips, some from Menuhin family home movies, amusing anecdotes, and responses to audience questions, so that no two presentations are precisely the same. They are interactive affairs to a degree – Philip is prepared to delve into issues raised by members of the audience – and they are informed by his unique depth of knowledge of his subjects, and his affection for them. These presentations are not to be missed if the opportunity presents itself; watch the Yehudiana website here.

As for the biography itself, I can do no better than offer some excerpts from the review published in the latest edition of Music Forum, the journal of the Music Council of Australia. The reviewer, Dr Goetz Richter, Associate Professor for Violin at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, says, inter alia:

Bailey’s story is based on a large range of sources including hitherto unpublished letters by Menuhin’s first wife, Nola Nicholas, to her life-long friend Joan Levy. The inclusion of such personal material provides Bailey’s book with a compelling dimension but also with challenges. First-person knowledge can struggle with critical distance especially under the influence of charisma. Bailey thankfully remains disciplined and reflective. It is to the author’s credit that he seems to achieve significantly more clarity and insight into the Menuhins than they themselves did in their own autobiographical attempts ...

Bailey’s own search to relive [the Menuhin odyssey] is sensitive, lucid and stays on track. Aiming to expose contact points and converging pathways in two such intricate life stories is a delicate ambition and potentially fraught with the danger of creating artificial links or confusing the reader. Bailey, however, negotiates dangers skilfully. He manages to keep us focussed with a flowing and clear, readable prose which never becomes tedious. While this work is nurtured by a profound respect and loyalty to the Menuhins and their memory, the author is not afraid to approach their existence critically. This is no gushing account. The story of the Menuhin odyssey reads like a real search and Bailey achieves its reliving.

The first volume of Yehudiana may be ordered by post with an order form downloadable from the Yehudiana website here. The website itself is well worth checking out.

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