Speech by Lord Menuhin at the European Parliament – September 1995 (PART I)

Speech by Lord Menuhin – Session of the European Parliament – Brussels, 27th September 1995 (PART I) 

Already from the day I was born, I became aware of the world and the world’s sufferings, for my parents were very conscious of social injustice but were very happy. So, I had a very happy childhood, and my mother loved and at the age of 99 still loves to look after young people and to guide them. My father always was worried about greater social issues, and he was very much a man of the left as a young man and then gradually found the middle road. I was surrounded with great music; I have spent my life with the minds of Beethoven and Bach and Ravel, and all the other creators of music. I spent my life trying to get the nicest, the most beautiful sound out of a little bit of wood – the violin – and I learnt a great deal in the way of handing an object on which you depend and from which you want to bring out the best. You have to handle it with great delicacy and with great subtlety. You cannot beat a violin into beautiful sound any more than you can beat a flower into blooming. And then I was blessed by a wonderful wife, who is so very beautiful and full of integrity and natural dignity – and fine children. And, therefore, I feel that somehow, I owe humanity – you all and your people, my own friends of every country – I owe them a debt because of my life has been almost too wonderful, and the debt is paid with great satisfaction.


(…)  I founded the Organization, which is known as the International Yehudi Menuhin Foundation, with no resources at all, because we did not begin with money, we began with ideas. I think that this is the safest way to begin, as the rest follows. I believe we have something that is not new but it is something which represents a need of our moment, of our day. – Just briefly to tell you about the autobiographical aspect, it began with what was closest to me, music and teaching.


I know that many of you are concerned with the condition of the world today, where more and more violence exist. If you want to reconcile aggression and polarization with what we call peace, which is a dynamic harmony, because peace is not a paradise in which we all sit down and enjoy our whisky or whatever else we drink, but it is a state of dynamic equilibrium, which is constantly changing, ever adjusting to change. For instance, as we sit down here is a peace that was built upon democratic political party polarizations; the sun, too, which draws the tree and the leaves to their height with their wonderful panoply, and gravity, its polarity, which draws the roots into the earth which provides the tree with strength—these two forces can be viewed as opposing each other. They appear to be so, but they are, in fact, complementary to each other. Therefore, the forces of antipathy, of aggression, of suspicion, of antagonism, can be reconciled by the concept of complementary, as the opposition should realize that all opposition, even our enemy is necessary to us. And what is most important is that we should understand our potential enemy. There is another resolution of aggression that is possible, in the concept of reciprocity, meaning that we are courteous to our neighbor, because it is much more practical not to waste time in getting excited, but to work together, for each other and to establish trust. For that we give each other the benefit of the doubt, we are courteous to each other for a perfectly natural, selfish reason, which is that of saving ourselves for the positive and not spending and destroying ourselves on the negative. This is yet another element which will contribute to the resolution of conflict and that is the concept of equilibrium. We are in constant balance, a balance between emotions. We live in a world where the stars and the sun and the earth, everything is moving, and we are only here in peace because there is a balance, an equilibrium between all the moving parts that have to be adjusted according to each momentary new position of the elements in the equation. Motion and human emotion are inseparable. Therefore, the sense of wanting to establish the harmony, this sense of dependence on each other, has been very strong during my whole life. As a boy I hope—I had the childish idea—that if I played the Chaconne of Bach beautifully enough—but it would have to be very, very beautiful—I could bring peace. Well, I have not succeeded, but I am still concerned with harmony and with the idea of dynamic balance, of reciprocity of equilibrium, of complementarity.

Yehudi Menuhin during World War II – 27 June 1944 – Capt Maurice Evans – Major 7.B Schultz 147th General Hospital