°1916 - †1999
Great Britain - Switzerland
Yehudi Menuhin was born in New York of Russian-Jewish parents, but later became a British subject. He made his violin debut at the age of seven with the San Francisco Symphony in Lalo's Symphonie Espagnole, following this with a recital in New York a year later. By the time he was eleven he had made his historic debuts in Paris and Carnegie Hall, at twelve in Berlin and at thirteen in London, thus launching himself at an early age on a career that was to take him all over the world for the ensuing decades, playing with all the leading conductors and orchestras. In addition to his renown as a great musician he is equally recognized for his committed humanism, exemplified by his interest in and work for the young, for international understanding, and all the many causes he finds close to his synoptic mind and generous spirit.
lt was on his first visit to lndia in 1952 at the invitation of Prime Minister Pandit Nehru, that he met Ravi Shankar, developing a deep admiration for both Shankar and Indian music. Subsequently, they gave many concerts together and made numerous recordings which sold into the millions; the proceeds of all the coneerts given on his tours of India were donated to charity. In 1960 he was awarded the Nehru Peace Prize for International Understanding. Some thirty years later, in 1992, he was honoured with the title of Ambassador of Goodwill to UNESCO.
In recognition of the many concerts he gave for the Allied Forces during the second World War, flying over from America whenever he could find space in a military plane, Yehudi Menuhin was awarded numerous honours, amongst which were the Legion d'Honneur and the Croix de Lorraine from France, the Order of Merit from Germany, the Ordre Leopold and the Ordre de la Couronne from Belgium, from England the Royal Philharmonic Society's Gold Medal and in 1995 from Spain the Gran Cruz de la Orden del Merito Civil. Queen Elizabeth II bestowed a knighthood on him in 1965 and gave him the Order of Merit in 1987, followed by a life peerage in the Queen's Birthday Honours list in 1993.
He is an Honorary Doctor of over 30 universities in different countries, including those of Oxford, Cambridge, St Andrew's and the Sorbonne as weil as being a Freeman of the cities of Edinburgh, Bath, Reims and Warsaw and holding the Gold Medals of the cities of Paris, New York and Jerusalem. He was also the first Westerner to be made an Honorary Professor of the Beijing Conservatoire in recognition of his concerts in China and of his endeavours in helping many young Chinese violinists to continue their studies in the West.
In 1963 he achieved one of his greatest ambitions, creating a boarding school for promising young musicians, starting from the age of seven and based on the Central School of Moscow, where the students receive both their scholastic and musical education under one roof. Numerous students of the Yehudi Menuhin School, which is officially associated with its Moscow equivalent, have gone on to earn university scholarships.
In 1977 he founded the International Menuhin Music Academy for young graduate string players in Gstaad, Switzerland, the site of the Menuhin Music Festival, of which he was artistic director for 40 years and for which he was awarded Swiss citizenship.
Yehudi Menuhin made his first record at the age of twelve and a year later began his long association with HMV/EMI, with whom he continued to record for many years. He has also recorded for Deutsche Grammophon (the complete Beethoven sonatas with Wilhelm Kempff) and conducted numerous orchestral works for Philips, Virgin, Nimbus and other labels. A great number of his early recordings have been reissued on CD on the occasion of his 75th and 80th birthdays by Biddulph Recordings, and IMG Records issued a boxed set of the complete Beethoven symphonies, performed by the Sinfonia Varsovia under the baton of Lord Menuhin.