In 2016, the world celebrates 100 years since one of the most prominent 20th-century musicians, violinist Yehudi Menuhin, was born. He managed to embody the highest humanistic ideals of mankind through his creative and public work.
A concert tour around Ukraine was Menuhin’s final wish. At the musician’s request, the concerts were supposed to take place in Odesa, Kyiv, and Yalta.
Menuhin’s ancestral roots on his mother’s side, Marutha Sher, who had Karaites ancestors and was an heiress of Tatar khans, linked him specifically to Crimea. Symbolically, Yehudi’s sister was named Yalta.
Following an earlier proposal from the Ukrainian branch of the Yehudi Menuhin International Foundation, the musician had already agreed perform concerts and to conduct his favorite orchestra Sinfonia Varsovia. Unfortunately, his sudden passing on March 12, 1999 put a stop to all his creative plans.
Making the dream of the brilliant Menuhin a reality became possible thanks to the International Arts Association AIDA (Monaco) with its own cultural project: “Menuhin 100.”
Throughout April 2016, musical dedications in the memory of Menuhin took place in Odessa, Lviv, and Kyiv. Leading musicians of the world took part in them: violinist and conductor Dmytro Sytkovetsky (U.S.); Dmytro Sukhovienko (piano, Belgium); the famous Ukrainian composer with a worldwide reputation Myroslav Skoryk (conductor); Roman Kofman (conductor, Ukraine); Victoria Zhadko (conductor, Ukraine); the young Ukrainian violinist Nazariy Pylatiuk; and the academic youth symphony orchestra “INSO-Lviv.”
The audience had a great chance to dive into the musical world of Menuhin, whose words remain extremely important to all of us today: “The purpose of music is to contradict everything that makes people brutal in their thoughts and feelings.”
The famous pianist, Dmytro Sukhovienko, remembers that his first encounter with the world of music happened in 1993, when he took part in the Clara Haskil International Piano Competition in Switzerland.
“After a year of studying at the Academy, I had a wonderful opportunity to personally meet Yehudi Menuhin and to work with this talented musician,” the pianist remembers. “These meetings were short, but so impressive to me as a young musician. Menuhin did not teach me the art of playing piano, however, through his example of humanism and tolerance he allowed me to consider many issues regarding the basic values of our life, at a different angle. Yes, Yehudi Menuhin believed that human wealth is reflected in the knowledge of languages,” continues Sukhovienko.
The famous violinist, Dmytro Sytkovetsky, also took part in the musical project “Menuhin 100.”
“This is a great opportunity to play and conduct in Lviv and Kyiv on the 100th Birthday of the Master. I am convinced that if Menuhin would have still been alive today, he would have been the first one from all of creative community to build bridges and to heal the wounds of today’s crisis.”
“He knew so many wonderful colleagues with Ukrainian roots: D. Oistrakh, N. Milstein, L. Kogan, Y. Sytkovetsky, V. Horovets, S. Richter, E. Hilels,” says Sytkovetsky. “Menuhin understood better than others the power and the meaning of music, which does not know any religious, political, ethnic, or any other divisions of people’s ethnicity. Music unites, heals, and inspires souls, and the great Yehudi Menuhin tried to convince the entire world of these truths!”
Let’s travel back in time to New York City 1916: a child with both hands impaired is born to the Jewish family of Ukrainian background, who was to come and bear the unofficial status of “the violinist of the 20th century,” Yehudi Menuhin. His story of climbing to the top of fame is incredible. He became the highest professional performer of classical pieces with his unique, inimitable style. And we are not talking about his ability to improvise, but the talent of rendering feelings from playing a note that reaches the audience’s hearts. The violin came alive in his hands and became an integral part of his musical image.
Not surprisingly, Menuhin gave his first concert as early as at the age of seven, and before he was 30, the best music halls of the world were overflowing with ovations following the maestro’s brilliant performances.
Menuhin began his musical journey at the age of five, when his father gave him his first violin as a gift, and no other than Louis Persinger became his first teacher. A window into Europe would later open for Yehudi, where his instructors were the famous George Enescu and Adolph Busch. Albert Einstein, having attended Menuhin’s concert, was carried away by his performance to the point of exclaiming: “You have proven to me yet again that there is a God in the heavens!”
Menuhin’s solo repertoire was enormous and covered many works from Vivaldi to Enescu. He loved jazz and varied petween violin and viola. Frequent tours to different countries invariably brought success, but Yehudi sought continuous improvement. With this in mind, he even took a two-year break from 1936 to 1938. After the pause, Menuhin returned a mature artist and continuously, up until March 12, 1999, worked to benefit world culture, until he left us at 82 years of age. The city he last visited was Berlin.
Menuhin’s concert activity is innumerable: he conducted 110 performances at age 80 alone! This was not simply a musician, a conductor, a teacher; he was an individual of epochal importance, and a humanist by vocation. He gave 500 concerts during WWII and post-war concerts in Germany and the USSR for the purpose of reconciliation. His founded of a music school in England in 1962, a Music Academy in Switzerland, and the World Fund for Support of Young Musicians in 1980. The European Cultural Parliament in the 1990s lauded the altruism and a good heart of the great musician and artist of Ukrainian heritage.
This is the reason why every country that is touched by the project “Menuhin 100,” initiated by AIDA, will be able to tell its own story associated with this brilliant individual. Other events are also planned in Belgium (Brussels), Sweden (Ystad), the U.S. (New York City), and the kingdom of Monaco.
The project “Menuhin 100” aims to reveal to the world the legendary musician and humanist, Menuhin, who dreamed of uniting East and West as the bearers of the two great world cultures existing in harmony.
AIDA’s mission is to provide a humanistic impulse to uniting ideas through culture and arts.