20 years without Yehudi

20 years without Yehudi


norman lebrecht

March 12, 2019

Lord Menuhin died today, on March 12, 1999.

He used to ring from time to time, asking if I could spare him a few minutes to discuss something I had written in a newspaper. Unfailingly polite, always kind, deeply concerned about the future of humanity.

I miss Yehudi.



  • John Marks says:

    I miss him too…

    The first time I met him, I asked him to inscribe the program not to me, but to someone else.

    When I gave him the name, he looked startled, and said, “I think I know him!”

    When I reminded him that the AFoM local-union official I knew had been his US Army Jeep driver during WWII, Sir Yehudi absolutely beamed.

    A priceless memory.

    I have spent perhaps more than 40 years telling people that Menuhin’s Kreisler cadenza for the Brahms concerto (with Furty and the Lucerne F.O.), was the most inspired piece of violin playing I knew of. (Trust me; I have heard a lot of violin playing.)

    Starting at 17:24 here:


    He was a gentle-man.


    • David K. Nelson says:

      That is indeed a brilliant bit of fiddle playing, in a cadenza which I have come to prefer to Joachim’s. Thanks for the link. Another good version of that cadenza is Berl Senofsky’s. And of course Kreisler’s own first recording.

      Fascinating to watch Menuhin’s bowing in that Bach Air film. The bow gets right up to the bridge at times, with no change in tonal beauty. My violin would be making sul ponticello noises. And I’m not blaming the violin by the way …

      Menuhin might well be the greatest violinist I ever heard … but I did hear Milstein and Milstein actually played greatly on those nights. Menuhin struggled (Mendelssohn and Bartok No. 1 on the same program, and I was at both the rehearsal and the concert). But the opening of the Bartok was the most luminescent violin tone I’d ever heard, room-filling.

  • Terence says:

    “Unfailingly polite” is also how my friend’s father found Yehudi as a young man pre-WW2, when he visited New Zealand.

    Apparently Yehudi first came across yoga while he was there on that tour.

  • Spenser says:

    He was the greatest violinist I ever personally saw and heard.
    Here’s to his memory!

  • Sharon says:

    His son, Jeremy, was a concert pianist and I believe the only one of Menuhin’s 4 kids who became a musician. However, I have not heard anything about him doing a concert or touring in the New York City area in quite a while. Does anyone know if he is still performing?

  • stanleycohen says:

    We all miss him but be glad he never conducted you. I sang a Faure Requiem for him at the RFH and a tour of ten cities in France to celebrate his 80th birthday with Beethoven 9. We always watched the concert master’s /leader’s bow.

  • Chris says:

    I recall some years before he died, playing in the orchestra to accompany him in a concerto – I forget which one, (but that’s largely irrelevant here). In the time between the rehearsal and the concert starting, he was in his room, when one of our number knocked the door to speak with the maestro. Next thing about five or six of us stringplayers were in the room while he explained (and demonstrated) the intricacies (and a few secrets) surrounding his fingering in some of the more difficult passages from quite a number of concertos and other pieces from his (extensive) repertoire. What a gentleman and so patient. I hadn’t realised it was quite so long since he died. Thanks for the memory.