Yehudi Menuhin (1916-1999) was born in New York of Russian Jewish parents. A child prodigy, he made his solo violin debut aged seven with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. By the age of 13, he had performed in Carnegie Hall, Paris, Berlin and London and was launched on a lifelong music career that took him around the world, playing with leading conductors and orchestras. Considered one of the greatest violinists of the 20th century, Menuhin was also a committed human rights campaigner and educator.
Countless honours have been bestowed on Yehudi Menuhin, not only for his achievements in music but also for his contribution to world peace. They include Honorary Doctorates from numerous universities, the French Legion d’Honneur, Germany’s Great Order of Merit, and the Ordre Leopold and the Ordre de la Couronne from Belgium. In 1960 he was awarded the Nehru Peace Prize for International Understanding, and in 1992 the title of Ambassador of Goodwill to UNESCO. In 1993, a life peerage bestowed by Queen Elizabeth II made him Lord Menuhin. He was also the first Westerner to be made an Honorary Professor of Beijing Conservatory in recognition of his concerts in China and for his endeavours to help many young Chinese violinists continue their studies in the West.
Yehudi Menuhin founded numerous music festivals and music schools. They include the Menuhin Festival Gstaad, of which he was artistic director for 40 years. In 1963, he realized one of his greatest ambitions by establishing the Yehudi Menuhin School in England where ever since, gifted young musicians have been nurtured to achieve their full potential. The school has grown and developed to become a world-class institution, attracting students from around the globe.
During World War Two, Menuhin played more than 500 concerts for Allied troops and became a symbol of peace. He was the first Jew to play with the Berlin Philharmonic after the war. As well as a classical repertoire, he explored music from other cultures and styles. While visiting India in 1952, he met Ravi Shankar and developed a deep admiration for both Shankar and Indian music. They subsequently gave many concerts together and made numerous recordings. He also regularly played and recorded with jazz virtuoso Stéphane Grappelli. After the US, he made Switzerland his home before finally becoming a British citizen and settling in England.