Yehudi Menuhin

Yehudi Menuhin, Violinist, NYC

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Yehudi Menuhin

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Yehudi Menuhin, Baron Menuhin, OM, KBE (April 22, 1916 - March 12, 1999) was an American violinist and conductor who spent most of his performing career in the United Kingdom. Though born in New York City, New York, he later became a citizen of Switzerland in 1970, and in 1985, of the United Kingdom.


Born to American Jewish parents, Menuhin began violin instruction at age three under violinist Sigmund Anker. He gave his first solo violin performance at age of seven, alongside the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. Menuhin later studied under the Romanian composer and violinist George Enescu, after which he made several recordings with his sister Hephzibah, who was a pianist. He was a student of Louis Persinger, George Enescu, and Adolf Busch.

Yehudi Menuhin performed for allied soldiers during World War II, and went with the composer Benjamin Britten to perform for inmates of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, after its liberation in April 1945. He returned to Germany in 1947 to perform under the baton of conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler as an act of reconciliation, becoming the first Jewish musician to do so following the Holocaust. After building early success on richly romantic and tonally opulent performances, he experienced considerable physical and artistic difficulties caused by overwork during World War II as well as unfocused and unstructured early training. Careful practice and study combined with meditation and yoga helped him overcome many of these problems. Although many violinists are unimpressed with his technical mastery of the instrument (his bowing in particular), his profound and considered musical interpretations are nearly universally acclaimed. When he finally started recording, he was known for practicing by deconstructing music phrases one note at a time.

Menuhin continued to perform to an advanced age, becoming known for profound interpretations of an austere quality, as well as for his explorations of music outside the classical realm.

Menuhin regularly returned to the San Francisco Bay Area, sometimes performing with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. One of the more memorable, later performances was of the violin concerto of Sir Edward Elgar, which Menuhin had recorded with the composer for HMV in London in 1932. He also hosted the PBS telecast of the gala opening concert of the orchestra from Davies Symphony Hall in September 1980.. During the 1980s he made jazz recordings with Stéphane Grappelli and of Eastern music with the great sitarist Ravi Shankar. In 1983 he founded the Yehudi Menuhin International Competition for Young Violinists in Folkestone, Kent. In 1985 he was awarded British citizenship and was now entitled to the accolade "Sir Yehudi" as his knighthood was no longer honorary. In 1990 he was the first conductor for the Asian Youth Orchestra which toured around Asia, including Japan, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong with Julian Lloyd Webber and a group of young talented musicians from all over Asia.

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