Yehudi Menuhin performed countless times and deepened the reflection on the most remarkable works of the classical repertoire. He also played an important role in the recovery of certain works that had been ignored until then and in making known works of Shostakovich or Prokokiev to the Western world.
Throughout his life, Yehudi Menuhin tirelessly took up the cause of the oppressed, using his notoriety to raise awareness among all audiences. His leitmotiv in life was “to give a voice to the voiceless”.
When war broke out, Menuhin produced himself more than 500 times for Allied forces and the Red Cross in the Pacific and England. In 1945, he toured with Benjamin Britten the liberated concentration and refugee camps. He also stood in defence of the director Wilhem Furtwängler who had retained his position at the Berlin Philharmonic under the Nazi Regime and was under fierce criticism. He wrote in his respect “You should know that staying in his position often requires more courage than deserting”.
Moreover, he constantly denounced the injustice of Apartheid in South Africa where he travelled and gave free concerts for the black community.
He toured in Israel and played in the Palestinian refugee camps.
Responding to the invitation of Pandit Nehru, Yehudi Menuhin travelled to India where he discovered a fascinating musical culture. He helped in making this music and artists know in the rest of world.
In 1956, he created the Gstaad-Saanenland Summer Music Festival which continues to attract artists from all over the world nowadays. Yehudi Menuhin found happiness in his new career as a conductor. He was notably President and Associate Conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Hallé Orchestra in England, Principal Guest Conductor of the Sinfonia Warsaw, President and Principal Conductor of the Hungarian Philharmonic Orchestra.
Yehudi Menuhin founded the Yehudi Menuhin School in England in 1963, the International Music Academy for Young Graduate String Players in Switzerland in 1977, the Association “Live Music Now” encouraging young musicians and organizing concerts in hospitals, homes and other “isolated” places.
In 1991, he founded the IYMF to ensure the sustainability of various projects such as MUS-E aiming at integrating artists in schools and the Assembly of European Cultures.
Countless honours have been bestowed on him 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.