Posted by: Lisa Hill | June 11, 2011

Woodend Arts Festival 2011

An Exacting Heart: The Story of Hephzibah MenuhinOur first day at the Woodend Arts Festival began well.  We had an easy drive up from Melbourne and arrived in time to have a light lunch in a local bistro before our first event, which  was Mary Delahunty in conversation with Jacqueline Kent, author of An Exacting Heart, the story of Hephzibah Menuhin.

This session showed once again what a good interviewer Mary Delahunty is.  She has the knack of going straight to the heart of the book and identifying the issues, keeping a rather voluble guest on track and managing silly ‘questions’ from the audience with aplomb.  I found myself wishing that she hosted her own book show on TV or radio, perhaps specialising in biography and non-fiction books because clearly that’s where her strengths lie…

I enjoyed Kent’s thoughts about dealing with aggrieved family members who didn’t like the book – because she made it quite clear that her loyalty is firstly to the subject – who deserves to have the story told as best it can be, and also to the reader.  A biographer obviously needs to maintain good relations with people who might be able to provide insights into the subject’s life, but that can’t over-ride the importance of the truth.  Fortunately Kent had good cooperation from family members during the writing of the book – it was only afterwards that some of them took umbrage.  She was also very lucky to have had access to an astonishing archive of Hephzibah’s letters as well.

Hephzibah Menuhin was an interesting person, and not just because she was Yehudi Menuhin’s sister.  She was apparently as good a musician as he was, but she gave it all up for love, married unwisely (to Lindsay Nicholas of Aspro fame), abandoned him and her little children and went off with Richard Hauser. She had two more children with him and devoted herself to humanitarian causes.  It was she who came up with the idea of mobile libraries, so much loved in country Victoria!

You can read more about the book on Kent’s website and the book is available from Fishpond, see An Exacting Heart: The Story of Hephzibah Menuhin.

Sideshow: Dumbing Down DemocracyTonight we’re off to hear Mozart’s Requiem, performed in the very lovely St Ambrose’s Church, and then tomorrow there’s more music: a concert of Spanish music, and then Lindsay Tanner talking about his book Sideshow: Dumbing Down Democracy.  There’s been a lot of commentary about this book –  from politicians and journalists who are the subject of his critique, so most of what I’ve read hasn’t been particularly objective.  I’m looking forward to hearing the man speak for himself…

Update, about 11.00pm Saturday night

Mozart’s Requiem was sublime.  The Ensemble Gombert have the most beautiful voices for this early music and the Accademia Arcadia under the baton of John O’Donnell made this performance the best I’ve ever heard.  I think it was recorded by the ABC so perhaps there is a chance of hearing it again…


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