One of the greatest of violinist
s, at least when he was younger. In later years his playing quality
fell off a little, but he became a great humanitarian
and worked for music as an instrument of peace and understanding. George Steiner
said he was "Probably the best-loved personality
in the history of the performing arts
." He was widely known simply as Yehudi
He was born in New York in 1916, Menuhin's parents being Russian Jews. He accepted either the English pronunciation MEN-yu-in or the Hebrew me-NOO-khin. He became a child prodigy in America, with his first public performance being in San Francisco in 1924; then went to Paris to study under the composer Georges Enesco. His Berlin and London debuts were both in 1929: in Berlin, under the conductor Bruno Walter, he played concertos by Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms. He played the Elgar concerto under the tutelage of Elgar himself in 1932. The Bartók violin sonata was written for him in 1941.
His sisters Hephzibah Menuhin (1920-1981) and Yaltah Menuhin (b. 1922?) were both famous pianists who often played with him, especially Hephzibah.
Two performers from other traditions he loved playing with were Ravi Shankar and Stephane Grappelli.
During the war he performed many concerts for Allied soldiers, and he also gave performances for recently released prisoners. This experience led him to work for humanitarian causes for much of his life.
Awarded an honorary knighthood in 1965. Lived in Britain for many years, including in Highgate, where he was associated with Highgate School's noted musical tradition, and was director of the Bath music festival and chamber orchestra from 1959 to 1968. He took British nationality in 1985 (enabling him to be called Sir Yehudi), and was created Lord Menuhin in 1993. He died in Berlin on 12 March 1999.