Legendary Violinists back to intro
Yehudi Menuhin Yehudi Menuhin

Birth: April 22, 1916 in New York, United States

Death: March 12, 1999 in Berlin, Germany

Nationality: British

Occupation: violinist, conductor, humanitarian

listen to a performance
career timeline:
related web sites:

BBC: AboutMusic: Profiles: Yehudi Menuhin

International Yehudi Menuhin Foundation

The Yehudi Menuhin School

Menuhin, Yehudi, Lord Menuhin of Stoke d'Abernon, celebrated American-born English violinist, conductor, and humanitarian, brother of Hephzibah Menuhin; b. N.Y., April 22, 1916; d. Berlin, March 12, 1999.

He was born of Russian-Jewish parents whose original surname was Mnuhin. After being taken to San Francisco as a child, he studied violin with Sigmund Anker. In 1923 he became a student of Louis Persinger, the concertmaster of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra Menuhin was only 7 when he made his public debut in Oakland playing Bériot's "Scène de ballet" with Persinger as his accompanist. On Jan. 17, 1926, at the age of 9, he appeared in recital in N.Y. His European debut followed when he was 10 as soloist with Paul Paray and the Lamoureux Orchestra in Paris on Feb. 26, 1927. It was in Paris that he began to study with Georges Enesco. On Nov. 25, 1927, Menuhin was soloist in the Beethoven Violin Concerto with Fritz Busch and the N.Y. Symphony Orchestra, garnering extraordinary acclaim from the public and critics alike. He then made tours throughout the U.S. and Europe. On April 12, 1929, he was soloist with Bruno Walter and the Berlin Philharmonic in a daunting program of concertos by Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms, which elicited much acclaim. His London debut followed on Nov. 10, 1929. During this time, Menuhin continued to study with Enesco, and he also received additional instruction from Adolf Busch. In 1935 he completed his first world tour, and then toured regularly around the globe. During World War II, he gave some 500 concerts for the Allies and the International Red Cross. With the end of the War in 1945, he resumed his international career. In 1950 he made his first tour of Israel. After touring Japan for the first time in 1951, he played in India for the first time in 1952. In 1957 he founded an annual music festival in Gstaad, Switzerland. In 1959 he also founded the Bath Festival in England, with which he remained active until 1968. He founded the Yehudi Menuhin School of Music in Stoke d'Abernon, Surrey, for musically gifted children in 1963. From 1969 to 1972 he was joint artistic director of the Windsor Festival. In 1971 he was president of London's Trinity College of Music, a position he later held with the Young Musicians" Symphony Orchestra (from 1989) and the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester (from 1992).

As Menuhin's virtuosity began to decline, he turned increasing attention to conducting. In 1982 he became associate conductor and president of the Royal Philharmonic in London, with which he toured and made recordings. He also served as principal guest conductor of the Warsaw Sinfonia from 1982 and of the English String Orchestra from 1988. Apart from his various musical activities, he also pursued humanitarian efforts on behalf of world peace. However, his uncompromising sense of justice often antagonized political factions of both the Left and the Right. Following Germany's defeat in World War II in 1945, the German conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler was compelled to stand trial as a Nazi collaborator by the Allies. Menuhin came to Furtwängler's defense and, after the conductor was exonerated, the two performed and recorded together in spite of the furor his defense had engendered. After being received enthusiastically by Israeli audiences following the creation of the new state of Israel in 1948, Menuhin aroused Israeli animosity when he gave benefit concerts for displaced Palestinian refugees. At a music congress in Moscow in 1971, he embarrassed his Russian hosts when he appealed to the Soviet government to respect human rights. In spite of these and other controversies, however, Menuhin served as a Good Will Ambassador of UNESCO in 1992.

Menuhin was the recipient of innumerable honors. After making his home in England, he received an honorary knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II in 1965. In 1985 he became an honorary British subject and thereby formally became Sir Yehudi, an honor he retained until 1993 when the Queen created him a Life Peer as Lord Menuhin of Stoke d'Abernon. Among his other honors were the Gold Medal of the Royal Philharmonic Society of London (1962), the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding (1970), the Sonning Music Prize of Denmark (1972), Grand Officier de la Légion d'honneur of France (1986), Member of the Order of Merit of England (1987), the Brahms Medal of Hamburg (1987), and Grand Officer of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Italy (1987). He also was awarded many honorary doctorates, including ones from the universities of Oxford (1962) and Cambridge (1970), and from the Sorbonne in Paris (1976), where he was the first musician to be so honored by that French center of learning.

Menuhin was the author of an interesting autobiography, UNFINISHED JOURNEY (1977; 2nd ed., rev., 1996). Among his other books were THE VIOLIN: SIX LESSONS BY YEHUDI MENUHIN (1971), THEME AND VARIATIONS (1972), VIOLIN AND VIOLA (1976), THE MUSIC OF MAN (1980), and LIFE CLASS (1986).

Further Readings
B. Gavoty, Y. M. ET GEORGES ENESCO (Geneva, 1955); R. Magidoff, Y. M.: THE STORY OF THE MAN AND THE MUSICIAN (Garden City, N.Y., 1955; 2nd ed., 1973); N. Wymer, Y. M. (London, 1961); E. Fenby, M.'S HOUSE OF MUSIC (London, 1969); R. Daniels, CONVERSATIONS WITH M. (London, 1979); M. Menuhin, THE M. SAGA (London, 1984); D. Menuhin, FIDDLER'S MOLL (London, 1985); K. Pohl and A. Zipf-Pohl, eds., "HOMMAGE À Y. M.: FESTSCHRIFT ZUM 70. GEBURTSTAG AM 22. APRIL 1986 (Baden-Baden, 1986); T. Palmer, M.: A FAMILY PORTRAIT (London, 1991).

Source: "Yehudi Menuhin." BAKER'S BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY OF MUSICIANS®, Centennial Edition. Nicolas Slonimsky, Editor Emeritus. Schirmer, 2001. Reprinted by permission of The Gale Group.

close window go back to intro