Yehudi Menuhin

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Belle
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Yehudi Menuhin

Post by Belle » Sun Jan 27, 2019 2:59 am

A friend is presenting a program on Menuhin for our music group in the next couple of months. He emailed me today for an assessment of the technical and artistic achievements of Menuhin for his presentation as he regards me as somebody in the know. I know nothing of this musician and have told him I'd consult the brains trust here on CMG for expert help and appraisal. He just wants some words from the cognoscenti on the achievements of Yehudi Menuhin to accompany his biography and recorded performances of the violinist.

John F
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Re: Yehudi Menuhin

Post by John F » Sun Jan 27, 2019 4:50 am

I saw Menuhin perform twice, both times in 1961 in Vienna: a recital with his sister Hephzibah Menuhin at the piano, and the Bartok concerto with Ferenc Fricsay and the Berlin Radio Symphony. His tone and technique were nothing special, and the recital, including sonatas by Beethoven and Debussy, was frankly dull, but the concerto was anything but dull. Here are Menuhin and Fricsay in the same year playing the Bruch concerto and there's no shortage of vitality and feeling:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCNHM7TCcPs

It seems that Menuhin depended on strong partners to bring out the best in him.

Menuhin's career was many-sided. He also conducted, especially at the Bath Festival which he founded. He also founded a music festival in Gstaad. His interest in the far east led him to take up yoga and Indian music, in some recordings with Ravi Shankar. He also played jazz in partnership with Stephane Grappelli. He founded a music school for children in the 1960s and a competition for violinists in the 1980s. What he didn't do, not much at any rate, was play chamber music.

Menuhin was a man of considerable moral courage. He was the only important American Jewish musician who stood up for Furtwängler after the war, making recordings of the great concertos with him. And he made a speech in the Knesset criticizing Israel's continued occupation of the west bank.
John Francis

barney
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Re: Yehudi Menuhin

Post by barney » Sun Jan 27, 2019 5:57 am

His greatest days were his earliest,by and large. The Elgar premiere for example. I heard him play the Beethoven at the Albert Hall (with nearly 5000 others - it's too big) and he was really good. But he's more celebrated as a humanitarian even than as a violinist. I have nearly everything he recorded and often prefer other violinists, but he was certainly a great.

I have a lovely joke about Menuhin, which I will post if asked. Normally no one on CMG thinks much of my humour, and it will take a bit of typing. And of course humour is as deeply personal and inexplicable as musical taste.

Rach3
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Re: Yehudi Menuhin

Post by Rach3 » Sun Jan 27, 2019 10:23 am

barney wrote:
Sun Jan 27, 2019 5:57 am
I have a lovely joke about Menuhin, which I will post if asked. Normally no one on CMG thinks much of my humour, and it will take a bit of typing. And of course humour is as deeply personal and inexplicable as musical taste.
I'm quite sure if you find it lovely, it probably is.If not too much trouble, would appreciate your effort.In these recent days for our Country , a little humor goes a long way and is welcome. TIA.

mikealdren
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Re: Yehudi Menuhin

Post by mikealdren » Sun Jan 27, 2019 1:03 pm

I heard Menuhin 3 times in the 60s and 70s as well as seeing him on television fairly often. He was a major presence in the UK in those days. Sadly he was no longer the great player he had been but he was still capable of very moving performances. He stood in when Oistrakh died for a memorable performance of the Beethoven with the Halle, not technically immaculate but it clearly meant an enormous amount to him.


A friend played in an orchestra accompanying him late in life. They played the Bach double concerto and rehearsals were fraught, lots of discussion about HIPP which YM seemed blissfully unaware of. To quote my friend "in the evening he confounded all of them by playing like a god".

Lance
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Re: Yehudi Menuhin

Post by Lance » Sun Jan 27, 2019 2:36 pm

As for the joke, Barney, we MUST hear it! Like you, I have almost everything Yehudi ever recorded from the earliest days to his latest, and as a conductor, too. He was a real gentleman from all accounts, and in his earliest days, was no doubt at his best. There was a time when he was having some serious problems playing the fiddle. But he never gave up. A competent musician for sure. He recorded primarily for EMI and his catalogue of recordings is massive. He also made recordings for RCA Victor, Deutsche Grammophon, Columbia/Sony and there are many recordings on independent labels of live performances. Perhaps your friend would be wise to see out the EMI/Warner Icon set of 12 CDS entitled "The Early Recordings," which includes collaborators Artur Balsam, Gerald Moore, his sister Hepzibah, all at the piano (among others), and conductors Sargent, Elgar, and Monteux. RCA's complete recordings for the label appeared on 19854, six CDs. It is interesting to note that EMI issued an "Introuvables" set for Menuhin [73819, 5 CDs, long out of print], that included the three violin sonatas of Edvard Grieg with Robert Levin at the piano. These were recorded at the time Menuhin was experiencing problems. Other than this issue, these sonatas never came forward again on CD (to the best of what I recall right now). Menuhin could play just about anything and probably did, but he may not always be your first choice in some of the more noted repertoire. As someone else noted, he will be remembered for the great humanitarian he was, and his legacy of recordings will, of course, continue to be enjoyed and collected. Menuhin made the world a better place in which to live, both musically and as a generous, giving person who helped many along the way. His Beethoven Violin Concerto with Furtwangler (I believe two were recorded, one live), would definitely be on any program paying tribute to Menuhin.
barney wrote:
Sun Jan 27, 2019 5:57 am
His greatest days were his earliest,by and large. The Elgar premiere for example. I heard him play the Beethoven at the Albert Hall (with nearly 5000 others - it's too big) and he was really good. But he's more celebrated as a humanitarian even than as a violinist. I have nearly everything he recorded and often prefer other violinists, but he was certainly a great.

I have a lovely joke about Menuhin, which I will post if asked. Normally no one on CMG thinks much of my humour, and it will take a bit of typing. And of course humour is as deeply personal and inexplicable as musical taste.
Lance G. Hill
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______________________________________________________

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
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Belle
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Re: Yehudi Menuhin

Post by Belle » Sun Jan 27, 2019 4:02 pm

John F wrote:
Sun Jan 27, 2019 4:50 am
I saw Menuhin perform twice, both times in 1961 in Vienna: a recital with his sister Hephzibah Menuhin at the piano, and the Bartok concerto with Ferenc Fricsay and the Berlin Radio Symphony. His tone and technique were nothing special, and the recital, including sonatas by Beethoven and Debussy, was frankly dull, but the concerto was anything but dull. Here are Menuhin and Fricsay in the same year playing the Bruch concerto and there's no shortage of vitality and feeling:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCNHM7TCcPs

It seems that Menuhin depended on strong partners to bring out the best in him.

Menuhin's career was many-sided. He also conducted, especially at the Bath Festival which he founded. He also founded a music festival in Gstaad. His interest in the far east led him to take up yoga and Indian music, in some recordings with Ravi Shankar. He also played jazz in partnership with Stephane Grappelli. He founded a music school for children in the 1960s and a competition for violinists in the 1980s. What he didn't do, not much at any rate, was play chamber music.

Menuhin was a man of considerable moral courage. He was the only important American Jewish musician who stood up for Furtwängler after the war, making recordings of the great concertos with him. And he made a speech in the Knesset criticizing Israel's continued occupation of the west bank.
Thanks, John, and others who have commented here. He's a musician about whom I have had no knowledge or listening experience at all.

barney
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Re: Yehudi Menuhin

Post by barney » Mon Jan 28, 2019 12:44 am

I've probably raised expectations too high with my Menuhin joke. It's actually more fun to tell than to hear, and it needs to be heard rather than read.

Menuhin is returning to Russia on a grand tour that has raised international anticipation. The first recital is in Moscow in the leading hall. But on the night, the hall is empty, but for the first two rows in the middle which are filled with a tatterdemalion bunch of scarecrows, in rags, bruised and impoverished.
Menuhin, peering into the auditorium, is appalled. He says to the hall manager, "This cannot be my grand return. Tell them the concert is cancelled, and we will reimburse them!"
The reply: "Nyet! You tell them."
So Menuhin goes on stage. "Ladies and gentlemen, I am Yehudi Menuhin. I am very sorry, but I must cancel tonight's performance. You will be refunded or given tickets to another concert."
A tall, emaciated figure in rags rises from the first row. "Yehudi," he says, "oh, Yehudi! Ve are ze Jews from Novosibirsk. Two years ago ve hear you are comink and ve buy all ze tickets. Zen we march. Two sousand of us set off, and ve march. Ve die like flies, ve are raped and pillaged and killed. Zose you zee here are all zat are left. Oh, Yehudi, you cannot abandon us. Please, Yehudi, sing us vun song!"
Boom boom!

John F
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Re: Yehudi Menuhin

Post by John F » Mon Jan 28, 2019 2:18 am

A nice story, perhaps, but I don't believe it. It doesn't ring true for a host of reasons. And if it's not true, what's its point? That Menuhin was picky about his audience? Shortly before playing in Moscow he and Britten played two recitals for survivors of the Belsen concentration camp, who aren't likely to have looked much better than the Jews in your story.

Menuhin was always highly aware of the political significance of what he did and didn't do, and the consequences of canceling that concert, in that country on such an occasion and for no good reason, would have been obvious and impossible for him to ignore.

P.S. Here's Menuhin's account of what really happened, from Humphrey Burton's biography: "Feel thrilled beyond words following volcanic ovation at first Moscow concert. Eight encores to riotous public."
John Francis

barney
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Re: Yehudi Menuhin

Post by barney » Tue Jan 29, 2019 5:15 am

It's a joke, John. It bears no resemblance to fact whatsoever, and no such claim was ever made.
The funny thing, the point of the joke, is the enormous sacrifice made by the marchers thinking he is a singer. There is this build up of commitment, and the denouement is they have missed the point. Obviously it loses utterly everything in having to be explained. But I never suggested it was fact - I said it was a joke. I think it's very funny. It's certainly the last one I tell; I'm an utter failure at amusing CMG people, though I make my friends laugh. Perhaps they are merely polite. I wonder if it's the British-American divide (I am English, you are American).

John F
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Re: Yehudi Menuhin

Post by John F » Tue Jan 29, 2019 5:41 am

Your story bears enough resemblance to fact, since it names Menuhin and he did play concerts in Moscow, that it was fair to assume you were telling us something about Menuhin in Moscow, not a fiction having nothing to do with him or anybody else. It doesn't even work as a joke, as all those music-loving Jews would hardly have made all those sacrifices to hear Menuhin if they didn't even know he's a violinist. The story slurs the Russian Jews and Menuhin too, and it leaves a bad taste in the mouth, my mouth anyway. Well, at least we've established that it isn't true.
John Francis

Belle
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Re: Yehudi Menuhin

Post by Belle » Tue Jan 29, 2019 6:04 am

barney wrote:
Tue Jan 29, 2019 5:15 am
It's a joke, John. It bears no resemblance to fact whatsoever, and no such claim was ever made.
The funny thing, the point of the joke, is the enormous sacrifice made by the marchers thinking he is a singer. There is this build up of commitment, and the denouement is they have missed the point. Obviously it loses utterly everything in having to be explained. But I never suggested it was fact - I said it was a joke. I think it's very funny. It's certainly the last one I tell; I'm an utter failure at amusing CMG people, though I make my friends laugh. Perhaps they are merely polite. I wonder if it's the British-American divide (I am English, you are American).
I thought it was funny, anyway!! Good use of the vernacular!! John does seem to have an appreciation of English humour, though, from what I've observed.

I know lots of these kinds of jokes myself, but they are sometimes 'lost in translation' in this age of ours. What in heaven's name would people make of this these days? And from a stunning musician!! (I adored both of them, actually!)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=njK6zQp2Fdk

Their gorgeous take-down of English bureaucratic-speak is gold!!

barney
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Re: Yehudi Menuhin

Post by barney » Tue Jan 29, 2019 6:56 am

Absolute classics. We probably both cut our teeth on Pete and Dud, along with Not Only But Also, At Last the 1948 Show, Goons etc. Also, though less anarchic but very funny, Flanders and Swan. Did you see Tony Hancock?

barney
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Re: Yehudi Menuhin

Post by barney » Tue Jan 29, 2019 7:02 am

John F wrote:
Tue Jan 29, 2019 5:41 am
Your story bears enough resemblance to fact, since it names Menuhin and he did play concerts in Moscow, that it was fair to assume you were telling us something about Menuhin in Moscow, not a fiction having nothing to do with him or anybody else. It doesn't even work as a joke, as all those music-loving Jews would hardly have made all those sacrifices to hear Menuhin if they didn't even know he's a violinist. The story slurs the Russian Jews and Menuhin too, and it leaves a bad taste in the mouth, my mouth anyway. Well, at least we've established that it isn't true.
Sheesh, John! With an incredibly literal mind like that, I wonder you ever laugh. Perhaps you can find amusement in the foolish solecisms of English-Australian-Kiwis who try to make people smile online. And sorry to argue over something so irrelevant, but if the Jews (or, if you like, let's make them Siberian Cossacks, or Huns) would be as likely to travel to hear a famous singer as a famous violinist. They were Jewish because Menuhin was Jewish. How on earth you can find a slur on Jews in there utterly defeats me. Would it help if I point out that I am half Jewish, though the wrong (paternal) half. Or am I merely another self-hating Jew who wants to condemn Jews?
OK, I failed to please you. Sorry. Sue me. Over and out.

Belle
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Re: Yehudi Menuhin

Post by Belle » Tue Jan 29, 2019 6:41 pm

barney wrote:
Tue Jan 29, 2019 6:56 am
Absolute classics. We probably both cut our teeth on Pete and Dud, along with Not Only But Also, At Last the 1948 Show, Goons etc. Also, though less anarchic but very funny, Flanders and Swan. Did you see Tony Hancock?
Yes, indeed. And, no, I didn't ever see Tony Hancock - who died in our country.

Getting back to Menuhin; how would you say he fitted into the pantheon of great violinists? Would he have a place there or you would say he's 'second tier' to them? I have a feeling, from what's been said here, that his playing was inconsistent.

barney
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Re: Yehudi Menuhin

Post by barney » Tue Jan 29, 2019 8:55 pm

Belle wrote:
Tue Jan 29, 2019 6:41 pm
barney wrote:
Tue Jan 29, 2019 6:56 am
Absolute classics. We probably both cut our teeth on Pete and Dud, along with Not Only But Also, At Last the 1948 Show, Goons etc. Also, though less anarchic but very funny, Flanders and Swan. Did you see Tony Hancock?
Yes, indeed. And, no, I didn't ever see Tony Hancock - who died in our country.

Getting back to Menuhin; how would you say he fitted into the pantheon of great violinists? Would he have a place there or you would say he's 'second tier' to them? I have a feeling, from what's been said here, that his playing was inconsistent.
I think that's right Sue. I think he deserves a place in the pantheon because of his general fame - like Horowitz, he was known and admired by many more than classical lovers - and because of his humanitarian work and generous human spirit. I think he was a really fine violinist, but erratic - his very best is up there with the Heifetzes, Oistrakhs and Grumiaux, the Milsteins and Schneiderhahns, but his very best was far more irregular. But, as you know, fashions come and go with performers, and fashion is slightly out for Menuhin at present. PS, I have no idea of what the plural of Grumiaux should be. I have treated it like "sheep", the same singular and plural. :)

Belle
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Re: Yehudi Menuhin

Post by Belle » Mon Feb 04, 2019 3:59 pm

Thanks for this. I'll cut and paste some of the comments and give them to my friend who is doing the Menuhin presentation.

John F
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Re: Yehudi Menuhin

Post by John F » Mon Feb 04, 2019 4:47 pm

Menuhin had a great career, and he was very popular with audiences. He was a member of a great generation of violinists, not only in the US but in Russia, and he certainly doesn't belong in the top tier along with Jascha Heifetz and David Oistrakh, but he certainly shouldn't be dismissed.
John Francis

Lance
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Re: Yehudi Menuhin

Post by Lance » Mon Feb 04, 2019 6:33 pm

No question, Heifetz, David Oistrakh were probably the golden boys, and for me, Milstein. But when I think of the top violinists of all time, it grows considerably to include, Stern, Perlman, Francescatti, Grumiaux, Szeryng, Elman, Ricci, Goldberg, Haendel, Campoli, Kremer, Ferras, Shaham, W. Schneiderhan, Morini, Martzy, L. Kogan, Vengerov, Huberman, Rabin, Repin, Menuhin (of course!), Thibaud, Goldberg, Oliveira, Accardo, Friedman, Kreisler, Spivakov, Neveu, de Vito … well, I could go on an on. I just like to type all those great names! Even in front of the public today, we have so many grand violinists. Aren't we all lucky?!? One does wonder, nonetheless, about many of the highly-lauded ones today who will not have recording contracts because of the major changes people listen to music today on discs, and/or in the concert hall.
Lance G. Hill
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When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
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Rach3
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Re: Yehudi Menuhin

Post by Rach3 » Mon Feb 04, 2019 7:03 pm

Lance wrote:
Mon Feb 04, 2019 6:33 pm
One does wonder, nonetheless, about many of the highly-lauded ones today who will not have recording contracts because of the major changes people listen to music today on discs, and/or in the concert hall.
Indeed, and only so many college and university teaching jobs in an environment where liberal arts courses are being cut in favor of more " practical " studies by schools fighting for survival , especially with sky-high tuitions reducing enrollments. At my small, private college alma mater when I graduated in 1971, room, board AND tuition was $ 3200 / year. Now, $67000 / year.

maestrob
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Re: Yehudi Menuhin

Post by maestrob » Tue Feb 05, 2019 11:06 am

Rach3 wrote:
Mon Feb 04, 2019 7:03 pm
Lance wrote:
Mon Feb 04, 2019 6:33 pm
One does wonder, nonetheless, about many of the highly-lauded ones today who will not have recording contracts because of the major changes people listen to music today on discs, and/or in the concert hall.
Indeed, and only so many college and university teaching jobs in an environment where liberal arts courses are being cut in favor of more " practical " studies by schools fighting for survival , especially with sky-high tuitions reducing enrollments. At my small, private college alma mater when I graduated in 1971, room, board AND tuition was $ 3200 / year. Now, $67000 / year.
That's more than DOUBLE the rate of inflation (roughly). Yikes! When I went to Villanova (1968-72) the tuition was $1500/yr.

barney
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Re: Yehudi Menuhin

Post by barney » Thu Feb 07, 2019 4:40 am

People my age in Australia got their university education free! No longer of course; students take on crippling debt. And when I began my PhD in 1993, all tuition was on a scholarship.
We were certainly the lucky generation, as our children constantly remind us.

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