of the world
The famous violinist, naturalised as Swiss in 1970, had very strong ties with Switzerland, and especially Gstaad, where he established a festival and a school.
Yehudi Menuhin was born on 22nd April 1916 in New York. His father, Moshe Menuhin, and his mother, Marutha, met in Jaffa before settling in the United States. He had two younger sisters, Hephzibah and Yaltah.
As a young boy, he was already a violin virtuoso. At the age of seven, he gave an iconic performance in San Francisco as soloist in Edouard Lalo's Spanish symphony. The physician Albert Einstein's reaction to his performance was to exclaim: "Now I know there is a God in heaven."
As early as 1927 he performed in Paris with the Lamoureux Orchestra and in New York at Carnegie Hall.
He recorded his first album in 1928. Having shot to fame from a very young age, the violinist spent much of his life on planes, trains and ships which would take him from stage to stage around the world.
During the winters of 1929 and 1930, Yehudi Menuhin was on tour in Europe and America, where he made a lot of money at such a young age. He fascinated celebrities, including Charlie Chaplin.
On 26th May 1938, he married Nola Ruby Nicholas, the daughter of an Australian industrialist. They had two children, Krov and Zamira.
He left his first wife to marry an English dancer, Diana, in 1947, with whom he had two children, Jeremy and Gerard.
"The tireless musician of the world", as he was known, developed strong ties with Switzerland. From the 1950s, he sought to settle there with his second wife. The couple planned to establish their home in Arosa, in Grisons, then in Mürren in the Bernese Oberland, before setting their hearts on Gstaad in the same region. In 1959 Menhuin moved to London, but continued to spend several months every year in Gstaad.
Throughout his life, Yehudi Menuhin considered himself to be a global citizen striving to bringing people together. His strong belief was that classical music could bring cultures together and create social ties, so he endeavoured to make the former accessible to all, particularly the most disadvantaged in society. In this photograph, dating back to 1962, he is paying tribute to a Tzigane street violinist.
Yehudi Menuhin performed with some of the greatest musicians and conductors. In particular, he often shared the limelight with Mstislav Rostropovitch (photo), who shared the same political and humanitarian conviction.
In 1970 he became a Swiss national. At the Granges town hall, where Yehudi Menuhin was naturalised, a coat of arms now stands out from all the other regional motifs. The crest represents two phoenixes, violin strings, two hands holding forth a globe, a wooden cart, the Tzigane flag and a seven-branched candelabrum. This crest was designed for Yehudi Menuhin when the title of Lord was bestowed upon him by John Major in 1993.
The violinist was Artistic Director of the Gstaad-Saanenland Summer of Music for forty years. This festival originated in 1957 when the Director of the Gstaad Tourist Board at the time asked him to plan a short series of concerts.
Yehudi Menuhin devoted a considerable part of his life to teaching music. The musician notably founded the International Menuhin Music Academy (IMMA) in Gstaad. Accepting only the most exceptional string instrumentalists, this institution aims to develop the talents of the best musicians in the world and prepare them for major competitions.
In 1983 he established the Yehudi Menuhin International Violin Competition, which has since become the world’s leading international competition for young violinists.
When he died in 1999 at the age of 82, the violinist left a fabulous legacy to Switzerland. "I have spent my life striving to create a utopia," he wrote in his autobiography which was published in 1977.
Today, it is Geneva's turn to pay tribute to him in April 2018, by hosting the International Violin Competition which he founded. Poetic justice, it would seem, in the end.
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