Violinist Yehudi Menuhin was born in New York on 22 April 1916 to Jewish Russian immigrants who encouraged their son musicially with the best teachers. His official (and brilliant) début at the age of seven was on 29 February 1924 with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. By the time he was thirteen, he had played in Berlin, London and Paris.
In 1927 he began studies with George Enescu and became a world celebrity overnight, when he performed the Beethoven concerto in New York's Carnegie Hall with Fritz Busch and the New York Symphony Orchestra. The following year he made his first gramophone recordings, and in 1932 he was soloist in the Elgar Concerto at Elgar's 75th birthday concert, conducted by the composer.
In 1938 he married Nola Nicholas, daughter of an Australian millionaire (and, in 1947, divorced her, on grounds of 'simple incompatibility', marrying the ballerina Diana Gould later that same year).
During World War II he gave more than five hundred concerts for American and allied troups. in 1944 he played Bartók's Sonata for solo violin, which had been written for him, in New York, and in 1945 he performed for the survivors of the newly-liberated Belsen concentration camp.
He was the first Jewish artist to play with Furtwängler and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra after the war, despite criticism from the Jewish community worldwide. He is remembered in Berlin for making that 'first contact with cultural Germany'.
In 1952 he visited India, forming a lasting friendship with Prime Minister Nehru. (Later, in 1960, he was awarded the Nehru Peace Prize for International Understanding.) He met Ravi Shankar, with whom he made several charity recordings.
He established the Gstaad Festival in Switzerland in 1956, was director of the Bath Festival for ten years from 1958, and in 1959 made his home in London. In 1962 he founded the Yehudi Menuhin School, stating that 'The most blessed and privileged of all callings is that of the musician, who acts as interpreter, inspirer, teacher, healer, consoler, and, above all, as a humble servant. These are the human roles I would endeavour to cultivate among my beloved group of young students, who enrich my School not only with their burgeoning talents but with the great diversity of their cultural backgrounds.' In 1977 he founded the International Music Academy for Young Graduate String Players in Gstaad.
In 1985 he took British citizenship, in 1987 he was knighted, and in 1993 made a life peer. To mark his 80th birthday in 1996 he conducted the Warsaw Sinfonia in a new complete cycle of the Beethoven symphonies and, the following year, was recognised for his humanitarian work by the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, receiving the Distinguished Peace Leadership Award.
Yehudi Menuhin died in Berlin on 12 March 1999, aged 82, from heart failure. Isaac Stern called Menuhin 'a major figure in this century: an extraordinary musician, and a great humanitarian'.
A selection of M&V articles about Yehudi Menuhin
Ensemble. Unmissable Talents - An array of artists at London's Wigmore Hall, reviewed by Bill Newman
CD Spotlight. Elegaic Melancholy - A new recording from Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble, exceeds Howard Smith's highest expectations. '... beyond criticism ...'
CD Spotlight. Clearly Etched - Violin concerti by Vieuxtemps, heard by Stephen Francis Vasta. '... crisp ensemble and warm, full tone ...'
Masks - Jennifer Paull continues her investigation of musical and theatrical masks
Masks - Jennifer Paull investigates a layering of musical and theatrical masks, with the omnipresent eerie reminder of the gas mask
CD Spotlight. A Flowing Delivery - Bach Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin, heard by Howard Smith. '... vital technical flair ...'
CD Spotlight. Highly Challenging - Music for unaccompanied violin, heard by Howard Smith. '... searching performance ...'
Thank You Mama - Bill Newman talks to pianist Igor Tchetuev
Bizarre Perception - Alistair Hinton discusses a recent article on English music by David Hamilton
Ensemble. An Immensely Successful Event - Thomas Bielinski reports from the West Cork Chamber Music Festival 2009
Music for Musicians Only? - The public turns a deaf ear to improvised music. As for classical music, Jan Dahlstedt claims that having abandoned improvisation, classical music entered a sidetrack from which it has never escaped, thus badly stifling creative progress. If he is guilty of heresy or may have a point, read on and judge for yourself.
Record Box. A Theoretician's Knowledge - Andrew Violette's Sonata for unaccompanied violin, reviewed by Howard Smith
CD Spotlight. Dancing Goblins - Music by Bazzini, heard by Howard Smith. '... Hanslip brings it off with suitable aplomb.'
A Labour of Love - John Suchet's 'The Treasures of Beethoven', read by Howard Smith
Ensemble. Transcendental Universality - Celebrating London's multi-ethnic pianism in the elect hands of Ivan Kiwuwa, Mishka Momen and Wu Qian, by Malcolm Troup
Ensemble. Piano meets Sitar - Malcolm Miller at a CD launch of Peter Feuchtwanger's exotic piano music
Profile. The Hungarian Nightingale - A meeting with Gisela Doráti, better known as 'Gizi', by Bill Newman
Record box. Wild folk - Gilles Apap's new Bach and Mozart CD, reviewed by Keith Bramich
Record box - Trawling for treasure - Menuhin and Rostropovich -