Yehudi Menuhin

8.99 €

Yehudi Menuhin certainly qualifies for this status. The selection of repertoire for this rare recital with Marcel Gazelle from Ascona 1952 reflects a discerning attempt to maximize diversity of styles and periods while showcasing Menuhin’s approach developed over time. It is always engagingly musical and warmly humane, if sometimes technically fallible, but technical slips are less important than the intrinsic musical value of this performance, which has never been published before.

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YEHUDI MENUHIN – The Ascona Recital 1952

1. TARTINI: Violin Sonata in G minor, Op. 10/1 ‘Devil’s trill’ [13:22]
2-5. FRANCK: Violin Sonata in A Major, M.8 [26:33]
6-11. BACH: Partita for Violin Solo No.3 in E Major, BWV 1006 [18:01]
12. SAINT‑SAËNS: Havanaise, Op.83 [09:26]
13. SAINT‑SAËNS: Introduction et Rondo Capriccioso, O
p.28 [10:25]
Recorded · 25 August 1952 · Ascona · Palestre delle Schuola · Radio Svizzera di Lingua Italiana · Live Recording

Yehudi Menuhin · violin
Marcel Gazelle · piano

Additional Information

Article number: MC 2003
Release date: 02 May 2014
UPC barcode: 0791154050255
Total time: 77:43

Producer and Audio Restoration: Lynn Ludwig
Booklet Notes: Michael Waiblinger
Design: Alessia Issara
Photographs: Österreichische Nationalbibliothek
With special thanks to Christof Honecker

Yehudi Menuhin was born in New York on 22 April 1916 to Moshe and Maratha Menuhin, Jewish immigrants from Russia, who had met in Palestine. Before Menuhin was a year old the little family moved to San Francisco, for his father had accepted an appointment there as head of a Hebrew educational organisation. Maratha Menuhin was an overbearing mother who was very protective of her son. She and her husband taught Menuhin and his two younger sisters, Hephzibah and Yaltah, at home. A story of his childhood tells us that when he was about three years old his unusual sensitivity to music induced a friend of the family to buy him a toy fiddle. Little Menuhin already considered himself to be too old for toys and scornfully refused to have anything to do with it. The friend then thrust it into his hands and asked him to play it “like a good little fellow”. Whereupon Menuhin threw it angrily to the floor and stamped upon it. This incident brought him a real violin on his fourth birthday, and Sigmund Anker was called in to give him lessons.

No music pupil could have been more eager to learn than little Menuhin, and within eighteen months he was sufficiently advanced to go to Louis Persinger. He never seemed to weary of practising, and the progress he made was such that, after playing in various private houses, he was sought out to give public recitals. These were of course minor affairs, but greater things were in store, and he was only seven when he made his debut with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. An audience of 9,000 gathered to hear him play the Mendelssohn Concerto and were almost staggered by his amazing skill. As a result of this triumph he was invited to play in New York, and appeared at the Manhattan Opera House. His real debut there, however, did not take place until he was ten years old. Then he was given the honour of playing the Beethoven Concerto at Carnegie Hall with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Fritz Busch. At the finish the audience found that mere clapping would not adequately express their feelings: cheer after cheer broke out, and several hundreds of the 3,000 present rose to their feet. Tears streamed from the eyes of old ladies, and after the Olin Downes, the well-known American critic, said that he knew as soon as Menuhin’s bow touched the strings that his performance would be an exceptionally intelligent one. Writing in the New York Times he reported:

“Menuhin has a technic that is not only brilliant but finely tempered. It is not a technic of tricks, but one much more solidly established, and governed by innate sensitiveness and taste. It seems ridiculous to say that he showed a mature conception of Beethoven’s Concerto, but that is the fact. Few violinists of years and experience, known to the public, have played Beethoven with as true a feeling for his form and content, with such a healthy, noble, but unexaggerated sentiment, with such poetic feeling in the slow movement and unforced humor in the finale.”

Menuhin’s interpretation of the Beethoven Concerto was no doubt the result of his two years’ study in Europe with Georges Enescu and Adolph Busch. He had also played in Paris with the Lamoureux Orchestra and gained some very valuable experience, so this enormous success in New York was not a surprise to many of his friends. At his Berlin debut in 1929 he played both the Beethoven and the Brahms concertos with such feeling that many people said they had heard nothing like it since the days of Joachim. When Menuhin walked off the platform he was met by Albert Einstein, who said that his playing had proved to him that there was a God in Heaven.


His debut in England took place shortly afterwards at the Queen’s Hall, and this was followed by a recital in the Albert Hall, on both occasions his success was quite sensational. A similar triumph took place on 14 November 1931 when at Leipzig Menuhin played with the Gewandhaus Orchestra at the great concert held to celebrate the 150th anniversary of its foundation. After the Mendelssohn Concerto, the conductor, Bruno Walter, described his playing as a miracle and said that the boy possessed genius of the highest order. This was the first time in the history of the Gewandhaus Orchestra that an encore was permitted: the audience were so persistent in their demand that they would not allow the programme to continue unless the “wonder boy” could play again. The concert was followed by a splendid banquet at which many of Germany’s leading musicians, artists and scientists paid tribute to their young guest.

One day, Menuhin was rehearsing a concerto quite a routine affair and was taking no notice of the few odd people standing at the back of the hall. After all, at every rehearsal there are people connected with either the orchestra or the management of the hall who like to look in and see how things are going. He therefore made no special effort to impress them. To his astonishment, therefore, he had scarcely finished the last note of the concerto when he found himself taken up and kissed by an excited gentleman pouring forth superlatives in Italian. It was Toscanini. In 1935 Menuhin made his first world tour, visiting over sixty cities in over a dozen countries, including Australia and New Zealand. Then he withdrew from public life entirely for nearly two years in order to study, to overhaul and vastly extend his repertoire, first acknowledgement of the applause, Fritz Busch came down from his rostrum, took Menuhin in his arms and kissed him.

Most of that period was spent on a ranch in the Santa Cruz Mountains, not far from Los Gatos, California, a large and pleasant estate owned by his parents. In May 1938 he was married in London to Nola Nicholas of Australia, sister of Lindsay Nicholas, who was later to marry Hephzibah Menuhin. This marriage was later dissolved, and on Sunday 19 October 1947 he married Diana Gould, a ballerina, daughter of Admiral Sir Cecil and Lady Harcourt, at Chelsea Register Office while he was on a concert tour in this country. During the Second World War Menuhin made many tours in aid of war charities, some of them taking him as far afield as Australia. For the same cause he toured America in 1941 and crossed to England in 1943. In one year alone he made over 75,000 dollars for refugees. He made an exciting tour of war areas in 1944 playing to the troops, and was the first artist to play in the Paris Opera House after the liberation of France and held concerts in the other liberated cities (Brussels, Bucharest and Budapest.). After the war, Menuhin performed in displaced person camps and visited concentration camps soon after their liberation.

He returned to Germany in 1947 to play concerto concerts with the Berlin Philharmonic under Wilhelm Furtwängler. Jewish groups did not approve of his performance under Furtwängler soon after the Second World War. Much criticism was levelled at Furtwängler, who had remained in Germany and prospered during the war. Menuhin countered that Furtwängler had never joined the Nazi Party and had helped Jewish musicians. In 1950, when he made his first tour of Israel, many Jews denounced him for his 1947 Berlin appearance. During the 1950s and 1960s, Menuhin became involved with the inauguration of music festivals at Gstaad, Switzerland in 1956 and Bath, England in 1959. Although he had made his debut as a conductor in Dallas in 1942, it was at Gstaad and Bath that he began conducting regularly.

Menuhin continued to conduct until his death from heart failure on March 12, 1999 in Berlin.

He always insisted on playing from a first edition, and had some sharp things to say about editors who tried to “improve” the classics. Toscanini and Enesco had been the most influential musicians in his conception of the works of the old masters, and he was always trying to repair the damage done to some of the more popular works by “clever” editors and those who were stupid enough to allow themselves to be misled by such vandals. He was not at all impressed by showy “virtuoso music”, by the way, although he occasionally played it in response to requests.

© Michael Waiblinger 2014

Audiophile Audition Classical Review January 2015

The Menuhin recital from 1952 Ascona presents the 36-year-old artist in peak form.

Published on January 17, 2015

Yehudi Menuhin = TARTINI: Violin Sonata in G Minor, Op. 10, No. 1 “Devil’s Trill”; FRANCK: Violin Sonata in A Major; BACH: Partita No. 3 in E Major for Solo Violin, BWV 1006; SAINT-SAENS: Havanaise in E Major, Op. 83; Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 28 – Yehudi Menuhin, violin/ Marcel Gazelle, piano – MeloClassic MC 2003, 77:43 []

From Ascona’s Palestre delle Schuola, 25 August 1952, violin legend Yehudi Menuhin (1916-1999) performs a recital of tastefully virtuosic music with Marcel Gazelle (1907-1969). Opening with a fiery, robust performance of Tartini’s familiar “Devil’s Trill” Sonata, the veteran duo makes affectionate contact with the audience in this live broadcast from Swiss Radio, which captures Menuhin’s plaintive violin tone to good effect.

The Franck Violin Sonata in A suffers a brief intrusion from the French radio announcer for the first measures, but soon the intimate mystery of the Allegretto ben moderato spins its special veil. The emotional contrasts of this often erotic, sanguine work Menuhin maintains, first by proffering a controlled but thoroughly impassioned Allegro, followed by a studied, evanescent Ben moderato, lyrically mesmerizing as it expands into its cyclic Recitative-Fantasia. The ingratiating canon that defines the Allegretto poco mosso proceeds with a staid delicacy and poignant nostalgia, typical of the Menuhin sound. Menuhin has not unnecessarily lingered on tempo or phraseology, having avoided mannerism and bathos in a reading of driven yet subtle conviction.

Menuhin proceeds to his eternal strong suit: the Bach E Major Partita, whose opening Preludio has become a world entity unto itself. Virile, potent, feverishly driven, the music assumes a kind of violin version of “organ sonority,” plastic and full bodied in its moto perpetuo. Bach continues in a series of French dances, particularly the slow gigue of the Loure in 6/4. The next stately dance, the Gavotte en Rondeau, sets up a kind of poetic series of paired couplets, each ornamented with facile grace. We have Menuhin’s then moving to two Menuets in triple meter and binary form. Double-stopping has infiltrated much of the dance textures, often suggesting a larger ensemble en salon. The ensuing Bourree has Menuhin’s making into a hurdy-gurdy sound, rustically wistful. The Giga reverts to the Italian form of the dance, quickly alternating bow strokes and registration to achieve the multi-voice effect. Menuhin urges the line forward with masculine authority, vigorous, manic but rigorously staid within a fixed pulsation, brilliant.

The two Saint-Saens items enjoy their alternately exotic (Havanaise) and virtuosic (Introduction et Rondo Capriccioso) colors, long familiar to him and all lovers of bravura violin music. Gazelle’s keyboard bears a wonderful, expressive palette, but we shall always want the full orchestra to grant justice to Saint-Saens’ exquisitely fertile imagination. This MeloClassic disc allows us to hear the 36-year-old Menuhin in peak form. Recommended!

© Gary Lemco

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