My cultural life: violinist Andrew Bernardi

Andrew Bernardi with his Stradivarius. Photo by Malcolm Green

Andrew Bernardi with his Stradivarius. Photo by Malcolm Green - Credit: Malcolm Green

The musician and Shipley Arts Festival founder shares the music, books, films and cultural experiences that changed his life

What I’m reading

I find the real world such an adventure that I keep finding I don’t have time to visit the world of fiction. I’m fascinated by world affairs and how music and the arts can bring us all together. I’ve been reading The Economist, I’ve been reading The Strad – the magazine for violinists – and Classical Music Magazine. I do love a good Ian Fleming too.

What I’m watching

Andrew Bernardi with his Stradivarius violin. Photo: Malcolm Green

Andrew Bernardi with his Stradivarius violin. Photo: Malcolm Green - Credit: Malcolm Green

Lockdown has provided the opportunity for me to spend time with my son, Joshua (12) and give us time to catch up on all the things we’ve been wanting to see. One of those things is The Grand Tour, which appeals to my interest in things that are noisy and fast. Another firm favourite that I enjoy watching with my son and my wife is Dad’s Army.

What I’m listening to

I have to be honest: part of my listening has been our own recordings including recordings of music by the late John Ireland who rests in the church here in Shipley. I’ve been enjoying To Notice Such Things, by the late Jon Lord of Deep Purple. I’ve also been listening to the Violin and Trumpet Concerto by JS Bach which is a very rare piece, and Benjamin Britten’s Sea Interludes.

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The music that’s got me through hard times

The very finest music, for me, is that which causes us to believe in ourselves and really expresses what it is to be human. I can’t say we’ve had very hard times but we’ve had moments of doubt, and these pieces have got me through those moments. The recording of the Elgar Violin Concerto by Yehudi Menuhin when he was just 16 is the finest recording – of anything, by anyone. The other piece would be the Mass in B Minor by JS Bach, which we have performed as a music group many times. Both of those pieces are the ultimate music for humanity. If I could add a third, it would be the Beethoven Violin Concerto performed by Fritz Kreisler.

READ MORE: How Andrew Bernardi came to play the coveted Stradivarius

The last film I saw

Dunkirk, directed by Christopher Nolan. I loved it, and again Elgar featured, with a wonderfully stretched out version of Nimrod by Hans Zimmer.

The film that changed my life

The Jungle Book, because it made me smile and taught me what happiness was. And Jesus Christ Superstar. As someone who went to church because my family did, the film added music and context to something I’d always known about and that was quite a transformational moment. It made me see church in a more graphic and moving way.

My favourite radio station/podcast

Radio 3 is the world’s most interesting classical music station, but almost equal to that would be Classic FM because it has brought so many people to music. I’m a huge fan of the BBC so I would also mention Radio 4 and BBC Radio Sussex – they have real quality programming and bring communities together. The podcast would be the motor-racing from Goodwood - I have huge admiration for the Duke of Richmond.

My best experience in a theatre

When I first knew my wife, we went to see Felicity Kendall in a production in the West End. It was in the early days of mobile phones, and a phone started ringing. Everyone was aghast, and then another phone went off... then another. It was actually part of the play, and the reason I loved it so much was the audience became part of the performance – which is what I try to do as a musician.

The book I’m most likely to lend to a friend...

I have two: one’s a cookery book – The Goodness of Ginger and Turmeric by Emily Jonzen. I have been incredibly healthy and I think that book has looked after me very well. I’d also lend Wilding, by my friend Isabella Tree of the Knepp Estate. And if it was a friend in real need, I would lend them a copy of the Bible as well.

Find out more

The 2020 Shipley Festival quickly adapted to the age of coronavirus by moving many concerts online. Concerts have included live performances via Zoom including the world premiere of White Storks by Helen Ottaway. A selection of filmed performances are available to view on the Shipley Arts Festival YouTube page. More live events are expected to follow from this month: check for details at

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