I just finished reading all of your Yehudi Menuhin stories, thoughts and quotations, and I feel as though I've been around the world and back -- in a time machine.
First things first, I chose a winner, at random, from those who submitted their comments: congratulations to Don Sullivan of Cleveland, Ohio, who will be receiving a copy of Yehudi Menuhin's hardbound book, The Violin, which was re-published in March.
As occasionally happens to your editor here at Violinist.com, I'm humbled by the breadth of experience in this community, its geographic diversity and its profound love for the violin. I could not have found any one person who could have written a better tribute to Yehudi Menuhin than you've all written together. So here is your work, enjoy!
"A great violin is alive; its very shape embodies its maker's intentions, and its wood stores the history, or the soul, of its successive owners. I never play without feeling that I have released or, alas, violated spirits." - Menuhin
Yehudi Menuhin is the reason I have a job! In the 1970s, Menuhin came to Bermuda and wanted to provide the children of this small island with the opportunity to have a great musical education. In this vein, the Menuhin Foundation was born. The Foundation provides free instruction in stringed instruments in every single primary school in Bermuda. Each year, there are over 300 children who learn to play the violin, viola, and cello all because of Yehudi Menuhin.
Menuhin's insights on the possible origin of music in his series The Music of Man was part of the inspiration for me to delve into research on music psychology, especially in the area of perception, its relation to cognition, and the value of aesthetics. He was one of the greatest educators, musicians, and men, whose integrity is something only to aspire to. I don't recall the
exact wording of something wonderful he said, but it was along the lines of: "The greatest feeling would be if I could hear Bach Chaconne for the first time again."
My first memories were watching PBS back in the late 50's-early 60's, my father dictated the viewing cause I was after all studying the violin...I was a most agreeable participant though...Yehudi and his sister Hephzibah (piano) gave a whole series of weekly performances...grainy black & white picture with plenty of snow (rabbit ears) and on the "wide screen" 12-inch.
My favorite Menuhin story is from one of his books, Unfinished Journey if I recall correctly. Menuhin says that he was on tour, traveling by car across a remote stretch of northern Africa when the following event happened which really brought home to him the extent of his fame which he says he had not realized until then. As the car came around a bend the driver was forced to come to a sudden stop as due to some unexpected rain recently, there was a shallow lake where the road should have been. One car ahead of them had partially driven into the water and some of the local people were attempting to help them out. So the two people traveling with Menuhin get out of the car and are trying to explain that they have a concert to get to and they are pressed for time etc., but the locals say there is nothing they can do. They are already trying to help the people ahead of them whose car is stuck in the lake. While they are talking about all this Menuhin decides to get out of the car to see what's going on and small child from this remote village, who Menuhin refers to as an "urchin", spots him and squeaks out in French "That's Yehudi Menuhin!" Suddenly the local people mobilize and in what seemed a matter of minutes a large truck is produced which they load their car onto and it drives them across the lake to the adjoining road on the other side. (Or so says Menuhin, I always thought this story was a little dubious, but I enjoy it none the less.)
Yehudi Menuhin led many lives, some of them controversial - First and foremost violinist, but also conductor, speaker, writer, teacher, politician, philosopher, cross-cultural ambassador, and more. But it as violinist that he will most certainly be remembered, and with a wide range of views. To some, he was the veritable embodiment of the supreme musical interpreter. To others, a gifted but technically flawed artist who built a career that in this era would never have been launched. To me, whether he was technically "on" or "off," his was a unique voice, instantly recognizable at every point in his long, long career on the concert stage. It was a voice that was at once compelling, human, and magnetic. I do not believe that there will be another one like him who reaches the heights of fame and influence. Painters have their canvases, eternally preserved in museums and in reproductions. We violinists - from rank amateurs to accomplished virtuosi - have the capability of preserving the past hundred years of our art through recordings. The extensive recorded legacy of Yehudi Menuhin will be his eternal monument, and very likely as controversial as his playing was at its best (and worst). If we can all learn - not only in playing the violin but in living our lives - to play and live with as much heart, as much honesty, as much intelligence, as much courage, as much soul, we will be fortunate indeed.
Many years ago I was fortunate to attend a Menuhin master class. It was a wonderful class in which lofty ideals were defined and profound insights were shared. Mr. Menuhin's lecture on forming his interpretation of the Beethoven Concerto left me feeling that I had gotten a privileged glimpse over the shoulder of a master at his work. With all of these educational and inspirational riches, what made the strongest impression on me, what had me pondering the mysteries of what I had just heard to this day, was his playing of the open A string as he began to tune his violin! That open A string spoke volumes: It sounded unquestionably like the persona of Yehudi Menuhin, and nobody else. How can a human soul so vividly permeate a single note? How can a single note seem to convey an individual's world view? As with all musical magic, one's memory is primarily of the emotional expression one felt at the moment. One has almost to force oneself to recall the objective details of the sound which triggered the feelings. Serenity from the slow arch of dynamic rising and falling, generosity from the unforced largeness of tone, depth of felling from the rich complexity of overtones released by the sensitive bow arm. It was a violin lesson to last a lifetime, given in about three seconds.
When I was a young violinist the youth director from my church loaned me a recording of Menuhin's Beethoven sonatas (the one with his sister, Hephzibah, at the piano). I can still hear the wonderful sound and ensemble of those sonatas in my memory, especially the Kreutzer.
The one time I heard Menuhin play solo violin in concert was a great experience. He was supposed to conduct, but it snowed, and most of the orchestral musicians showed up late or not at all. He walked onstage carrying his violin, and told the audience that since most of the orchestra was not there, he would play something on his violin for us. He played Bach's Chaconne, and he was absolutely fantastic.
In 1988 I had the fortune to be participating in a recording with Mr. Menuhin and the Brooklyn Philharmonic. During a break I was able to have a short private conversation with him and I showed him a record jacket of a record I had brought with me to the session. The jacket was from the early Menuhin recording of the Elgar concerto. On the front was the famous picture of Menuhin as a boyish looking violinist with Elgar. He looked at the cover, sported a warm instant smile and said "what a wonderful memory". There was a pause as he immersed himself in the picture and I felt like I had been a partner to a special shared moment. I asked him if he would autograph the cover for me which he graciously did. It was the only time I ever spoke with him but it was a day that I will never forget. I later framed the cover and it is in my violin studio at Butler University. It is a treasured possession.
'The same magic recurs in the action of the bow caressing the strings, in the motion of the fingers on the fingerboard. The same voice is summoned up as if in a dream....what you hear in yourself harmonizes with the perceptions that conform outside.' ~ Yehudi Menuhin.
The very first time I heard Yehudi Menuhin's beautiful music was on a CD of Bach's sonatas and partitas that I randomly picked up. I was beginning to work on my first unaccompanied sonata, and I wanted to hear different interpretations of the music. It was this CD that made me fall in love with Bach. I then started to research this amazing violinist, and read the story about how his teacher made him play the works in one sitting over and over again for endurance. I think this was one of the moments where I figured out what I had to do to be a violinist. His music continues to inspire me, and I wish I could've seen him perform live once in my lifetime.
I think the Menuhin competition established by him for violinists under the age of 22 and now in its 25th year, available online at menuhincompetition.org is a great legacy for a violinist.
“I can only think of music as something inherent in every human being — a birthright. Music coordinates mind, body and spirit.” Menuhin
Menuhin is the genius of sound and phrase.
I am so moved, over and over again, by Menuhin's comments on his collaboration with Stephane Grappelli, where he praises Grappelli's improvisation skills and says he wished he could match him. But in particular, when he says that while playing with Grappelli he felt that "every note was an event, that every note had a meaning."
Yehudi Menuhin's playing is a beacon of light. His strong conviction to the power of music is unnoticably heard with every note he plays.
His Brahms concerto is amazing! Yehudi Menuhin is one of the most imaginative, original and musical violinists of the 20th century!
Yehudi Menuhin + Ravi Shankar
When I first heard Menuhin's playing, tears immediately filled my eyes. His tone was so personal....so touching. Every single note felt like he put all of his DNA into it to make it as intimate as possible; in other words, he was making his violin sing through his body as if it was another organ attached to it. As I listened to the record, his Mendelssohn concerto, the wide array of colors and textures jumped at me like a painting by Van Gogh. Every note was different, slightly askew, like splash of red paint in the middle of a blue canvas. However, they all fit together to form a phrase of remarkable and unmistakable beauty. That day was a changing day in my musical life and that was the day I decided to study music, so I could try to make my playing soar in the clouds like Sir Menuhin. I am in debt to his playing and him.
Webster's dictionary defines a virtuoso as one who excels in musical technique. Attaining virtuosity requires a perfect blend of masterful technique, heart-felt expression, and natural talent. Of all the old violinist masters, Yehudi Menuhin has won himself a place on a very high pedestal of virtuosity. Not all may agree with Menuhin's musical interpretations, ie an excessively fast tempo here or there, an overly flat note in a particular passage, etc., but Sir Menuhin had the power in his heart, in the pure essence of his being, to make one realize with the execution of even one simple note, the true value of life, music, and love. Menuhin's playing transformed violin playing into an intangible spirit, representing all things good in a very flawed world.
Thinking outside the box in hopes that we would make our boxes a little bigger...Menuhin... He was a renaissance man. The 20th century had very few of them, and Menuhin definitely was among the top!
He was a gentleman, and I'm glad to see that most people who play the violin are like that. My father, who has also passed on, didn't get the chance to enjoy music to the extent that I did, given his background, but one thing I remember him saying was that music "gives a person elegance."
To me, Menuhin's music-making unfolded as an act of nature. Those of us taken in by the music of his heart can touch eternity through, for example, the slow movements of his Bach concertos. There will never be another like him.
Menuhin was close to Willa Cather from his youth. This pairing sounds unlikely-- we don't really associate Menuhin with the USA anymore, despite his very American upbringing, whereas Cather is firmly associated with the Great Plains. But there was a real kinship between the two. Anyone who reads "My Antonia" will see that Cather's concept of music is closely related to Menuhin's. He called her Aunt Willa, and she advised him to build his career in Europe, but to come home to the States as much as possible, to stay connected to his native soil.
A short bio of Yehudi was in my junior high library in 1965. In 1970 I saw him play the Elgar In Kansas City. Later I took up Yoga which he promoted by supporting Iyangar. This man was very great. He would have loved the humanitarian work of Barenboim, and the music education that produced conductor Dudamel. I gave my historic 78s of Yehudi, including the Bach DBL with Enesco, to Benedictine College under the care of the monks I loved.
In an interview Yehudi Menuhin said of music, "If there is only one definitive way to play a piece of music, then it is not very good music." I was glad to hear that, because with that philosophy we are open to artistic expression. Not that we have license to neglect the composer's or writer's original essence and intent, but that we are not bound to be carbon copies of a single performance of a piece.
Augusta McKay Lodge:
“The violinist is that peculiarly human phenomenon distilled to a rare potency--half tiger, half poet.” Menuhin
Yehudi Menuhin was the violin hero of our family. My father, a European violinist emigrated to the US in 1947 (and in his youth Huberman was his hero) introduced his sons to the magic of Yehudi Menuhin's music. Over the years I met Menuhin as a fan, on several occasions, but once was different. In 1970 I was in India, studying the sarangi, the Indian fiddle, and my teacher there, Sabri Khan was scheduled to play a duet with Yehudi Menuhin at All India Radio, The national radio broadcaster, I have never been musically interested in Western and Indian classical fusions; they are each wonderful musical traditions and are not augmented through fusions. On this day, however, Menuhin was coming in as "disciple" to learn a new raga. (It was Raga Gujari Todi for those who might be interested). What I was so very impressed by--and at this point I was very much at home with both musical traditions--was the humility and genuine inquisitiveness Menuhin demonstrated as he learned the raga. His desire to learn was authentic and the respect he showed to my teacher was really culturally sensitive at a time (remember, this was 1970) when such sensitivity had not yet become standard practice. After some minutes of learning, they performed together for a taped broadcast, and given the fact that Menuhin had just "learned" the raga, he gave a remarkable performance. On this occasion, Menuhin again demonstrated to me the connection between being a wonderful human being and an exceptional artist.
I love to read the children's book that he wrote. (The King, The Cat, and the Fiddle, read the story description if you click on the link!)
The thing that I most love about Menuhin is his humanity and his genuine care for his fellow. It comes across so clearly in both his playing and his words. I remember watching him on The Art of Violin and thinking, "Wow, I really wish I could have met you." He is so sincere and genuine. So selfless and generous to others. I wouldn't necessarily copy everything he does technically or musically, but I admire his spirit so much, and hope I can imitate that type of sincerity in my own playing.
Michelle Guthrie, and Sarah Westfall:
“Music creates order out of chaos: for rhythm imposes unanimity upon the divergent, melody imposes continuity upon the disjointed, and harmony imposes compatibility upon the incongruous” Yehudi Menuhin
Simply put, Menuhin is THE reason why I play the violin. During the seventies he was part of a documentary named "Man and His Music". I remember it was the first time I heard someone play the violin unaccompanied: It had a profound effect on me. Then I read his biography: "Unfinished Journey", bought many many records, even took a lutherie course (and made my first violin!), took violin lessons, and so on and so forth... The violin is a intricate part of my life since then. You may refer to him as "Sir" or "Lord" but to me, Yehudi Menuhin is my first music teacher. The first that made me understand that music is not "classical" or "jazz" or "folk": music is a "language". Music is so universal that it can touch anyone, anywhere, in the world.
My favorite quote by Menuhin is actually from that book: The Violin. This quote is posted on my website and in my studio above the piano. I ask all my students to read it, because it so beautifully describes the meaning of music in our life.Here it is: "Once upon a time, in an age forgotten by time itself, at the dawn of a humanity whose secrets remain a mystery to archeologists, historians, and scholars alike, a taut vibrating string made itself heard-and with this second voice the human being was no longer alone."
In watching interviews of Yehudi Menuhin, I was always impressed with his panache and sense of style. He was not only a great violinist, but a real gentleman as well.
Without any doubt, Mr. Menuhin will always be remembered in the annals of music history, and particularly in the violin world as a performer, humanitarian and teacher who carried on, and passed down the mantle to his students, the traditions of the great violinists before him. His illustrious career prompted the idea that classical music is for all people of all musical tastes, and that the violin itself could be utilized in many other styles of music effectively. If the violin world had saints, his canonization would be certain.
Yehudi Menuhin plays Brahms "Hungarian Dance" with pianist Adolph Baller:
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