There was a moment of high drama at Yehudi Menuhin's concert Saturday night just before intermission when a man raced down the aisle, vaulted onto the Kennedy Center stage and ran toward the artist. A sudden shiver, born of this potshot age, went through the audience. Fortunately, the man only wished to embrace Menuhin who, despite his surprise, handled the matter with the gracious dignity that has characterized his long career.
The incident crystallized in a vivid manner the affection and respect that Menuhin has earned through both his art and his many humanitarian and educational activities. If his violin playing is now haunted by echoes of his own past performances, his appearance also carries with it the resonance of his personal achievements.
It is a regrettable fact that his playing fell far below the standards he set even a few years ago. Shaky intonation, erratic rhythm, low intensity level, limited dynamic range, reduced unity of concept--one could check off the list of problems on each piece. At the same time the aura of the past cast a gentle glow upon the recital. There were passages within the Brahms G-Major Sonata when Menuhin seemed to be carrying on a private, and very special, conversation with the composer. And in the chaconne that closes Bach's Second Partita for solo violin, who could say how many memories of Menuhin's past interpretations of the familiar lines must have been passing through the audience's, and perhaps even his own, mind?
By strictly musical standards the standing ovation at the concert's end was not deserved, but one would have to be hardhearted indeed to deny the claims of Menuhin's generous artistic service for more than half a century.
Pianist Paul Coker gave Menuhin sympathetic support, frequently supplying the needed strength and structure in a manner that did honor to Menuhin and credit to himself.