Yehudi Menuhin

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I can only think of music as something inherent in every human being - a birthright. Music coordinates mind, body and spirit.

Yehudi Menuhin, Baron Menuhin, OM, KBE (April 22, 1916March 12, 1999) was an American-born violinist and conductor who spent most of his performing career in the United Kingdom. He became a citizen of Switzerland in 1970, and a British citizen in 1985. He is widely considered one of the greatest violinists of the 20th century.

Quotes[edit]

  • Obliged to find an apartment of their own, my parents searched the neighbourhood and chose one within walking distance of the park. Showing them out after they had viewed it, the landlady said: "And you'll be glad to know I don't take Jews." Her mistake made clear to her, the antisemitic landlady was renounced, and another apartment found. But her blunder left its mark. Back on the street my mother made a vow. Her unborn baby would have a label proclaiming his race to the world. He would be called "The Jew" [Yehudi].
  • This wasteful governing by fear, by contempt for the basic dignities of life, this steady asphyxiation of a dependent people, should be the very last means to be adopted by those who themselves know too well the awful significance, the unforgettable suffering of such an existence. It is unworthy of my great people, the Jews, who have striven to abide by a code of moral rectitude for some 5,000 years, who can create and achieve a society for themselves such as we see around us but can yet deny the sharing of its great qualities and benefits to those dwelling amongst them.
  • Actually, I was gazing in my usual state of being half absent in my own world and half in the present. I have usually been able to 'retire' in this way. I was also thinking that my life was tied up with the instrument and would I do it justice?
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.
  • To play great music, you must keep your eyes on a distant star.
  • We embark unhesitatingly on the path, in a direction that is absolutely right and urgent, supported by everyone, in the knowledge that this path is but a learning process... We have to keep on learning, creating, applying, by-passing, touching upon, refining and clarifying a number of notions and details that need to be improvised and applied and which, thank God, we cannot foresee. The only rigidity lies in our will, our conviction that we are on the right road and that our initiatives are most pressing.
    • In: Jacob Bergen The Mandate, Xulon Press, 1 June 2006, p.33
  • The art of creation lies in the gift of perceiving the particular and generalizing it, thus creating the particular again. It is therefore a powerful transforming force and a generator of creative solutions in relation to a given problem. It is the currency of human exchanges, which enables the sharing of states of the soul and conscience, and the discovery of new fields of experience.
    • In: Katie Ahlquist concept, Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
  • There were other gurus and other lessons, but not until I met Iyengar did I take up the study regularly. My first meeting with him was like the casting of a spell. We made each other's acquaintance in Mumbai. He appeared in my rooms one morning and straightaway made it clear that the "audition" to follow was mine as much as his. For all my celebrity, to him I was just another Western body knotted through and through.
  • First and foremost, yoga made its contribution to my quest to understand consciously the mechanics of violin playing, a quest which by 1951 had long been one of the themes of my life. All influences pointed to less tension, more effective application of energy, the breaking down of resistance in every joint, the coordination of all motions into one motion; and illustrated the profound truth that strength comes not from strength but from the subtle comprehension of process, proportion and balance.
When I was a boy no one seemed to ask where the energies come from. Land, oil, coal, air seemed inexhaustible. Now we are realizing how our very life depends upon restoring not only our balance with nature, but also that balance within ourselves.
  • When I was a boy no one seemed to ask where the energies come from. Land, oil, coal, air seemed inexhaustible. Now we are realizing how our very life depends upon restoring not only our balance with nature, but also that balance within ourselves. We are depleting our reserves of spirit, health, courage and faith at an alarming rate. The quiet practice of yoga is, in its humble yet effective way, an antidote.
    • In: Sushama Londhe in “A Tribute to Hinduism: Thoughts and Wisdom Spanning Continents and Time about India and Her Culture”, p.341
  • I've had marvelous and incredible luck, and devoted parents, sisters, friends, and teachers. What more can one ask? These things contribute enormously. Probably the major part of one's success is due to these factors.
    • As stated in his interview with Martyn Lewis in Lewis' book, Reflections on Success(1997)
  • Why is compassion not part of the established curriculum, an inherent part of our education? Compassion, awe, wonder curiosity, humility – these are the foundation of any real civilization, no longer the prerogatives, the preserves of any one church belonging to everyone, every child in every home, in every school.
    • In: Vergil Z. Ozeca Humanimal, Lulu.com, 2010, p.188

Life class: thoughts, exercises, reflections of an itinerant violinist[edit]

Many people don't realize that it takes considerably more art & skill to play the violin lightly than it does to play it loudly. The best possible training for a young violinist is learning to play pianissimo and without pressure.

In: Life class: thoughts, exercises, reflections of an itinerant violinist, Heinemann, 1 January 1986

  • Many people do not realise that it takes considerably more art and skill to play the violin lightly than it does to play it loudly. Indeed, the best possible training for young violinists is learning to play pianissimo and without pressure.
    • In: p.68
  • In playing Beethoven the violinist should be a medium. There is little that is personal or that can be reduced to ingratiating sounds, pleasing slides and so on. Everything is dictated by the significance, the weight, structure and direction of the notes and passages themselves.
    • In p.78
  • It is absolutely vital to hold it as lightly as possible - rather as one might pick up a newborn bird.
    • In: p.100
    • On proper holding of the bow
  • One should feel in the right arm the vibration of the bow hair on the strings. [...] The moment tension or hardness enters into the hand then of course the vibrations will not be felt- they cannot penetrate.
    • In: P.143
    • On proper holding of the bow

Violinist Yehudi Menuhin[edit]

In: Amy Reynolds Violinist Yehudi Menuhin, Investor's Business Daily, 13 September 1999

  • Learning an imposed method seemed not in my nature
    • Quote from his autobiography,Unfinished Journey”
  • What fascinated my imagination was the tremendous feat, which I felt I should be perfectly able to accomplish.
  • [At age 7] In eight hours of concentrated practice between my twice-weekly lessons, I memorized the A major and played it for Persinger.
  • To be an outstanding musician, you have to be very attentive to the smallest detail and willing to have infinite patience in the pursuit of your ideal.
  • Even at the risk of losing all the golden eggs of the future, I had to find out what made the goose lay those eggs
    • When he realized that his shortcoming was knowing the basics to teach in a class.
  • Undoubtedly I had lost time in balking at scales, arpeggios. [...] There is an advantage in establishing the top story of one's constructions first: One has seen the heights; one knows what one is building for and what must be sustained.
  • The best teacher is the one who himself has had to struggle to learn.
  • I imagine that whatever contribution I can make to teaching derives from having had to rethink and re-create my technique.
  • The teacher offers guidance here and there, but the primary factor, the driving force, in your relationship and work together is the student's own commitment and desire to learn. Teaching is like sailing: The wind and the sails give the boat its motion. Your role (as a teacher) is to steer and guide.
  • The idea that a pupil is a passive recipient, a container waiting to be filled by the teacher's knowledge and instruction - all this is nonsense. Teaching is a living relationship, of give and take, of mutual learning.
  • There comes a time when the student turns his back on the teacher. His playing cannot have the necessary security, autonomy, self-faith, or communicative power until he believes his interpretation is his own.
  • This is the best and ultimate purpose of conducting: Not only to lead (the musicians) and keep them together, not only to make their performance easier and simpler, but also to guide them so that they can play as they have always longed to play.

About Yehudi Menuhin[edit]

He was one of the celebrities like author Aldous Huxley who was taught by B. K. S. Iyengar the Iyengar brand of yoga.
  • There is... no definitive interpretation for him but the search for repose, for a place where music, far from any pretension, vibrates naturally, where it can breathe more than show off.

Violinist Yehudi Menuhin[edit]

He could play difficult violin pieces by Mozart, Beethoven and Bach at age 7. He played in Carnegie Hall at 11. He was 12 when he made his first record. At 13, he'd played in the finest concert halls in Berlin, London, and Paris... - Amy Reynolds.

Amy Reynolds in: Violinist Yehudi Menuhin, Investor's Business Daily, 13 September 1999

  • Yehudi Menuhin could play difficult violin pieces by Mozart, Beethoven and Bach at age 7. He played in Carnegie Hall at 11. He was 12 when he made his first record. At 13, he'd played in the finest concert halls in Berlin, London, and Paris. At 19, he embarked on his first world tour – 110 concerts, 63 cities and 13 countries. Yet at 19 he couldn't play a simple A major scale or a basic three-octave arpeggio. And he'd never figured out music theory.
  • For young Menuhin, each piece was a goal. Once he heard something he wanted to play, he'd focus his mind on it. He practiced at least four hours daily. When he could play one work perfectly, he simply moved on to the next.
  • It wasn't enough to be a great soloist - Menuhin wanted to be a great leader in music. He wanted to teach, open a music school and conduct the world's best musical groups. Menuhin knew that if he wanted to teach a class or lead an orchestra, he couldn't rest on his past achievements. He needed to understand the steps he'd taken to play so well.
  • So back to school he went. To nail down the way his fingers moved, Menuhin learned every scale imaginable. He learned to play them at every speed. He searched the library for books on violin technique. He went to the best teachers and asked them to explain things the books didn't say. He asked gymnasts and dancers for advice on the most precise way to move his bowing arm. To understand how to control his bowing better, he learned the names of each muscle in the back, upper arms, forearms and fingers. He studied drawings made by Leonardo da Vinci, so he'd know what hands looked like on the inside. Then Menuhin broke his performance down even more. Studying India's exercise system of yoga, he started to understand his breathing as he played.
  • In 1942, Menuhin conducted for the first time. In the years that followed, he led the New York Philharmonic, the London Symphony Orchestra and the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington, D.C., among others. He taught students around the world. He established the Gstaad Festival in Switzerland and directed the Bath Festival in England. In 1963, he founded the world-renowned Yehudi Menuhin School in Stoke D'Aubernon, England. Menuhin became a British subject in 1985, was knighted in 1987 and became a life peer in 1993.

Violinist and Visionary Yehudi Menuhin Dies at 82[edit]

He worked to raise money for UNESCO and lobbied for racial equality in South Africa. He spoke out against narrow political nationalism in any form, including music. Not only did he create a rage for Indian raga music when he released his "East Meets West" recording with Shankar, he chipped away at the barriers between classical music and jazz by improvising with jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli.

Mark Swed in: Violinist and Visionary Yehudi Menuhin Dies at 82, The Los Angeles Times, 13 March 1999

  • Although he seemed almost the embodiment of the classical musician who was lost in the spiritual intensity of his art, he, in fact, devoted his 75-year career to a remarkably wide range of musical, humanitarian and even political activities--building cultural bridges that ranged from defying the political climate during the Cold War to a groundbreaking collaboration with Indian sitarist Ravi Shankar in the 1960s.
  • Yehudi Menuhin was a major figure in this century – an extraordinary musician and a great humanitarian. [...] His style of playing, particularly in his early years, was a stunning patrician elegance with a very natural musical line, which fitted the style of whatever composition.
  • Menuhin worked to raise money for UNESCO and lobbied for racial equality in South Africa. He spoke out against narrow political nationalism in any form, including music. Not only did he create a rage for Indian raga music when he released his "East Meets West" recording with Shankar, he chipped away at the barriers between classical music and jazz by improvising with jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli.
  • Menuhin felt a close kinship with Stern, who also was born of Russian immigrants.
  • Despite the adulation that followed him wherever he went, Menuhin's playing began to lose some of its technical brilliance in the 1950s and entered a slow decline. But Menuhin, who often appeared transfixed when he performed, readily made up for what a Times critic described as "thick-toned, raspy playing" with an increased spiritual intensity in his interpretation.

1999: Violinist Yehudi Menuhin dies[edit]

In: BBC News 1999: Violinist Yehudi Menuhin dies, BBC News 12 March 1999

  • He was never just a musician, from very early on he wanted to do other things, to make his music work for humanity
    • Humphrey Burton
  • His musical career spanned more than seven decades. He made his debut in San Francisco as a child prodigy aged seven and by the age of 13, had performed in London, Paris and Berlin. He went on to develop his talents as a violinist, conductor and teacher, founding the Yehudi Menuhin School, in Surrey, for gifted young musicians in 1963. [...] At the age of 16 the young violinist was conducted by Sir Edward in a now famous recording of the composer's violin concerto, made in 1932.
  • As well as campaigning for human rights, Menuhin was a keen yoga practitioner and health food enthusiast, warning against the dangers of white rice, white bread and red meat. He also spoke of the dangers of pollution long before environmentalism became a buzz word.

External links[edit]

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