Profile: Andrew Bernardi, violinist and musical entrepreneur

On Saturday 10 June 2023, The Bernardi Music Group will be opening this year’s Festival of Chichester in the Cathedral with a cosmic musical journey that will take the audience Beyond Our World. It will be joined by electric violist and conductor Nic Pendlebury and the Trinity Laban ensemble.

Watch Andrew Bernardi discuss this concert with Phil Hewitt on the Chichester Observer website.

What are you looking most forward to when performing at this concert?

We will be partnering with Trinity Laban Ensemble to open this year’s festival with a Holst theme. There’s the special connection that Holst is buried in the Cathedral.

It will be a night to remember: the audience will be transported from this world into a wider astronomical realm.

We’ll be supporting two composers, Eliana Echeverry from Trinity Laban and Nic Pendlebury who is a violist with the Bernardi Music Group and head of strings at Trinity Laban.

Who and/or what have been the most important influences on your musical career?

I was fortunate to have teachers who are or were significant musicians in their own respect. At The Skinners’ School I was taught by Jared Armstrong that music is similar in stature to architecture and central to society. Many of his pupils are now very prominent musicians. His approach was to encourage his pupils to compose or interpret music “in the moment” and not to be limited by how music is written on the page. Bernardi Music Group seeks to take a similar approach when performing live, so as to inspire its audiences.

What have been the greatest challenges of your musical career so far?

You need to be determined to develop mastery of the violin: it’s a very technical instrument.

A recent challenge has been the lack of governmental support and funding for classical music generally. We must be careful not to lose the world beating reputation for music which we currently have.

What for you are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

Bernardi Music Group has had collaborations at its heart from the outset. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Our 10 June performance will demonstrate that.

Are there any composers for whom you feel a particular affinity?

J.S. Bach is the “ultimate” composer, but he also was a teacher, and community leader, organising weekly performances.

I’ve got a close affinity for The Lark Ascending, composed in Horsham near where I live. It needs great sensitivity, not necessarily supreme virtuosity. Listen to Hugh Bean’s interpretation.

I also love Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, composed in a prisoner-of-war camp in World War 2.

But I also take inspiration from The Beatles. The late and very great Jon Lord of Deep Purple wrote all his final music and gave his last performances with Bernardi Music Group.

Some of our most successful collaborations have brought together young and professional musicians as you can see here in ‘Perfect Pitch’.

Which works do you think you perform best?

Fritz Kreisler’s Prelude and Allegro is a brilliant short piece that I love to play. I also like playing Beethoven’s Violin Concerto and Paul Lewis’s Violin Concerto written for me to play on the Stradivarius, and Elgar’s Sospiri.  I feel most at home playing with Johnny and Maria in our Stradivarius Piano Trio – greatest music played with finest friends!

What are your most memorable concert experiences, either as a performer, composer or listener?

Playing Elgar’s First Symphony in Brazil and my first performance in the Royal Festival Hall at around 15 years old performing Holst Planets. Also, performing with Yehudi Menuhin, one of the greatest musicians of all time (I now play with his bow). Performing with Montserrat Caballé, the Spanish operatic soprano, in the Royal Albert Hall. However, most of all I treasure performing the finest music with and amongst friends – I have a strong recollection of leading the B Minor Mass with the Bevan family as choir and soloists – very special indeed – and also the many premieres with musicians including John Rutter, James Whitbourn, Malcolm Singer, Cecilia Mcdowall and so many more – I’m so very grateful to all.

Bernardi Music Group performed To Notice Such Things written by Jon Lord at the memorial service for the writer Sir John Mortimer in Southwark Cathedral, which was attended by Queen Camilla. It had been commissioned by me for the Shipley Arts Festival, and crosses over the art forms, bringing acting, the spoken word and music together: this was a great collaboration.

I am particularly proud of our Sing with Strings annual youth music performances which brings many people together from Sussex and Surrey.

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

Aim high, don’t give up, never accept no for an answer, and be kind, then kind again.

How would you define success as a musician?

I’d define it as having provided a high level of service to your community, and high inspiration to fellow musicians and to perform consistently at the highest level over a long journey.

What would you like to be doing in 5 years’ time?

Still hopefully being able to providing inspiration to others, commissioning music and making excellent recordings.

About Andrew

Andrew Bernardi has become established as one of the UK’s leading violinists, festival directors, string educationalists and music entrepreneurs. A champion of charitable causes and a dedicated ambassador of music’s power to change lives, he promotes the transformative nature of performance across the world working with consulates, businesses and charities. In 2019 he was listed as one of the “100 inspirational and remarkable people in Sussex” by ETC Magazine.

Andrew attended The Skinners’ School and graduated with a degree in music from Leeds University before studying violin performance with John Ludlow, Hugh Bean CBE, Francis Mason and with the support of the late Lord Yehudi Menuhin. He won the Lebel postgraduate scholarship to study at Trinity College of Music where he led all the orchestras.

He formed the Bernardi Music Group in 1991 whilst also performing with orchestras including the Royal Philharmonic, BBC Philharmonic and Guildford Philharmonic. His vision was to bring together a professional group of musicians committed to inspiring young and older members of a community to come together to share music and support charitable causes.

In 2000, Andrew and the Bernardi Music Group formed the Shipley Arts Festival which has developed into a significant event in the county’s cultural calendar, bringing world-class music to rural West Sussex and embedding its activities in the local community.

For twenty years, Andrew has served as a Tutor at Trinity Laban with many of his former pupils now in leading positions within the music profession. He has performed with artists as diverse as John Rutter CBE, Rik Wakeman, the late Natalie Cole, and Gordon Giltrap and has played on TV and film soundtracks including cameo appearances in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Nanny McPhee, The Talented Mr Ripley and Pride and Prejudice. He has commissioned many new works by composers as varied as the late Jon Lord (formerly of Deep purple), Roderick Williams OBE, Malcolm Singer and Cecilia Mcdowall. He has regularly performed on national television in China including on Phoenix TV to an audience of over 40 million. Andrew continues a 25-year relationship with Raymond Gubbay Ltd., having performed over one thousand concerts in the Royal Albert Hall, Royal Festival Hall, the Barbican and Lucerne Concert Hall.  Andrew was particularly grateful to be invited to meet the King at Buckingham Palace alongside fellow musicians Lionel Ritchie and Dame Judith Weir just a few days before the Coronation.

Andrew performs on the 1696 Amici Bernardi Stradivarius and a violin bow formerly owned by the late Lord Menuhin. Outside of music, Andrew’s other great passions are sailing, architecture, and racing classic performance automobiles at the Goodwood Motor Circuit.

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