Menuhin, Sir Yehudi

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MENUHIN, SIR YEHUDI (1916–1999), violinist and conductor. Menuhin was born in New York, the son of parents who had left Palestine to settle in the U.S. He himself spoke Hebrew in his early years. He started to learn the violin at the age of five and appeared as soloist with the San Francisco Orchestra when he was seven. He was taken to Europe in 1927, and continued his studies with Georges Enesco and with Adolf Busch. By 1929, he captivated Paris, London, and New York, and made his first gramophone records. He had played the Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms violin concertos under Bruno *Walter in Berlin, and performed 75-year old Elgar's violin concerto under the composer's baton in London and Paris. In 1935 he retired for almost two years to California. During World War ii Menuhin gave an estimated 500 performances for U.S. and Allied Forces. In 1944 he was the first Allied soloist to play in liberated Paris and in 1945 he was invited to play in Moscow. He paid the first of several visits to Israel in 1950.

Menuhin had increased the scope of his musical involvement. His second career, as a conductor, was initiated with the Dallas SO in 1947 and became a regular feature of his activities. He established and directed music festivals in Switzerland (1957) and later in England (Bath and Windsor). He established a school for musically gifted children. Menuhin's admiration for Indian music prompted an important musical friendship with Ravi Shankar. He became an active member of unesco's International Musical Council of which he served as president. In 1970 he was awarded the Jawaharlal Nehru Prize for International Understanding. He received degrees, doctorates, and fellowships from universities around the world and state honors from 17 countries. After adopting British citizenship in 1985 he was knighted, and in 1987 he was awarded the Order of Merit. Among the many composers who wrote specially for him were Ernst *Bloch, Béla Bartók, Paul *Ben-Haim, and Sir William Walton. He published several books including the autobiography Unfinished Journey (1977), Life Class of an Itinerant Violinist (1986), and The Violin (1996). Yehudi Menuhin's sisters, Hephzibah *Menuhin (1920–1981) and yalta (1921–2001), both gifted pianists, appeared with him in chamber music recitals and in concert tours.


H.O. Spingel, Yehudi Menuhin (Ger., 1964). add. bibliography: Grove online; Baker's Biographical Dictionary (1997).

[Uri (Erich) Toeplitz /

Naama Ramot (2nd ed.)]