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Music Soars at Menuhin Festival Gstaad

Ning Feng01
Photo: Menuhin Festival Gstaad

By: Alexis Munier

NIng's Notes of Perfection

On August 8th, renowned violinist Ning Feng wowed the packed pews with sonatas by Janacek, Prokofiev and Beethoven. 

It’s easy to see, and hear, why the Chinese-born Ning has a growing international career. From 100% marks on his exams at the Royal Academy of Music in London (a first in two centuries) he went on to win the 2006 Paganini Competition.

Ning seemed to possess a limitless energy that resonated in each of his expert strokes of the bow. He is clearly at ease in the Russian/Eastern European repertoire; notable moments were Ning’s remarkable playing of Prokofiev’s Violin Sonata No.1 op. 80. In the Allegro brusco, Ning brought a striking beauty that is not often heard to the coarse nature of the piece. 

At his side was pianist Igor Levit, who played with finesse, despite a touch well-earned fatigue that crept in towards the end of boisterous Prokofiev. 

Should he make a return appearance next year, be sure to reserve your tickets in advance – Ning Feng is simply not to be missed.


Rial, Leipziger Streichquartett_RFA_7601
Photo: Raphael Faux

By: Alexis Munier

The Rial Deal – Soprano Stars with Leipzig String Quartet

It’s no surprise that the Menuhin Festival Gstaad stays true to its roots with an abundance of string concerts, as founder Yehudi Menuhin is considered one of the finest violinists of the 20th century. 

While vocal music doesn’t make an appearance in the majority of concerts, August 9

th featured a well-blended mélange of Sturm und Drang-inspired works for voice and string quartet. 

But a soprano is no violin; illness and travel can wreak havoc on a singer’s instrument, leaving for last-minute program changes. Basel-based Nuria Rial had been expected to sing Schubert’s Mignon Lieder in a performance with the Leipzig String Quartet. However due to vocal difficulties, the program was altered to feature songs with a lower tessitura.

This new programming may have been a blessing in disguise, as it included the quartet’s lovely rendition of Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll. This was a rare treat, since Wagner does not often (if ever!) make the program at the Menuhin concerts. 

But the crowd at Lauenen Church awaited Ms Rial with impatience; the performance lasted just 12 short minutes and left her public wanting more. Despite any illness, the Catalonian soprano brought typical Latin flair to this otherwise steadfast German music, using her graceful arms to convey key dramatic moments in Heine and Geothe’s poetry. 

While Rial used her surprisingly rich middle and light upper register with ease, some of the top notes lacked support, likely due to her less-than-perfect health. Overall, her gorgeous, sweet tone would be a welcome addition to any future Menuhin Festival programming. 

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