An impressive and very heartfelt memorial concert for Leonz Blunschi

Tue, 02. Nov. 2021

In memory of Leonz Blunschi, the Gstaad Menuhin Festival offered a concert in the church of Saanen on Sunday, in the spirit of their long-time supporter, president and later honorary president. It was as if he was right in the middle of it.

Sadness and consternation were palpable in the room and yet there was also a buoyant cheerfulness, the confidence that everything that comes to an end with earthly existence lives on in music. Music outshines everything earthly and builds bridges between generations.

In its programme, the Gstaad Menuhin Festival & Academy describes Leonz Blunschi as a "personality of incredible energy, a man of far-reaching contacts and unbureaucratic action, who enabled the festival to make the turn towards modernity without losing the very soul of the event." President Aldo Kropf also spoke in this spirit, pointing out that Leonz Blunschi was always particularly concerned with promoting young artists.

His life partner, Liza Stettler, confirmed this and described how important music and the conversations with the artistic director Christoph Müller were to him. Even shortly before his death, he had listened to the concert broadcast with violinist Daniel Hope. But she also told the audience that he equally had a folk side and felt at home in nature, hiking and picnicking.

In this sense, the concert programme was composed of both folk and classical music. The line-up of young musical talents was particularly endearing – young artists whose development was so close to Leonz Blunschi's heart.

Festive and colourful variety
The acoustics in the church of Saanen proved suitable for the polyphonic, simple alphorn trio of Fritz Frautschi and his ensemble. The sonorous, warm natural sound filled the church solemnly at the beginning and at the end of the concert with the orchestra of the Menuhin Academy Soloists. This was followed by the Cello Concerto in C major, Hob.Vllb;1 by Joseph Haydn and the String Octet in B flat major, op. posth. as a version for string orchestra by Max Bruch.

The solo cellist Anastasia Kobekina, who already appeared as a remarkable young talent in the "Jeunes Etoiles" concerts at the Menuhin Festival, thanked the audience for the well-deserved applause she received for her great interpretation of the Haydn concerto with a composition by her father for cello and tambourine. The latter was played by her cello colleague from the Academy Orchestra with fiery energy, which she was in no way inferior to on the cello. The daredevil, high-spirited dance ended in breathtaking virtuosity, driven by temperament, almost a little obsessively.

Soloists in the service of the orchestra
Leonz Blunschi would have been delighted with these young talents. Every musician in the orchestra can perform as a soloist. So it's not about outdoing each other, but rather about making music together at the highest level, to shine together. Anastasia Kobekina played her solo part in the Haydn concerto musically and sensitively, carried by the orchestra, whose playing she physically experienced with visible appreciation. Musically profound, exciting cadenzas that fitted beautifully into the concerto theme were very admirable.

Oleg Kaskiv neither made a star appearance as orchestra leader or as an outstanding soloist. It is simply beautiful how he integrates his undisputed soloistic skills into the concert. The work by Max Bruch is very suitable for listening to different instrumental parts. It is a successful arrangement for a string orchestra. The concerto also provides an insight into the music of a composer, who for a long time was unjustly reduced almost exclusively to one of his three violin concertos. After all, Bruch composed beautiful chamber music at a young age, some of which is now gradually being brought out.

Thus, the memorial concert ended in youthful freshness and full of musical delights – just as Leonz Blunschi loved it.

Based on AvS/Lotte Brenner

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