Tuesday, May 8, 2012

From Belsen to Galway - the Music of Yehudi Menuhin

One of the worlds most celebrated and respected violinists, Yehudi Menuhin, delighted Galway audiences in 1988 as he performed there for the first time. As part of the 1988/89 season, Music For Galway organised the concert in November where Menuhin conducted the Irish Chamber Orchestra and also featured cellist Daire Fitzgerald. The concert was held at Leisureland, Salthill.

Programme cover from the 1988 Galway Concert
Menuhin (22 April 1916 – 12 March 1999) was a Russian-American Jewish violinist and conductor who spent most of his performing career in the United Kingdom. He is often considered to be one of the greatest violinists of the 20th century. The press release issued by Music For Galway in 1988 publicising this concert outlines the many reasons why Menuhin is so highly revered. “Yehudi Menuhin is of course most famous as a violinist but the list of his other achievements is also staggering. He is particularly dedicated to young people and to the cause of world peace …Menuhin’s role as a conductor has been increasingly important in recent years. He is President and Associate Conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Warsaw Sinfonia and European Community Youth Orchestra.”

Menuhin was a boy prodigy, giving his first public concert début aged seven, he played Bériot’s Scène de Ballet accompanied at the piano by Louis Persinger. The outbreak of war in Europe in 1939 coincided with the birth of daughter Zamira and his first tour of South America later that same year. During World War II, Yehudi Menuhin gave more than 500 concerts for the Allied Armed Forces, in recognition of which he was awarded the French Legion of Honour, the Croix de Lorraine; the Belgian Ordre de la Couronne and Ordre Leopold; The Order of Merit from West Germany and the Order of the Phoenix from Greece. Menuhin went with the composer Benjamin Britten to perform for the inmates of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, after its liberation in April 1945. He went back to Germany in 1947 to perform music under the conductor Wilhelm Furtwangler as an act of reconciliation, becoming the first Jewish musician to go back to Germany after the Holocaust.
Press cuttings from local press in Galway, 1988
In 1950 Menuhin challenged apartheid in South Africa and also undertook his first visit to Israel, despite threats against him. In 1989 he conducts Messiah in the Kremlin shortly after the collapse of the Communist regime. He has constantly been at the forefront of music and at the place and role of music in society and in its healing power on reconciliation.

In 1963, wishing to ensure continuance of the art of violin playing, Menuhin founded the Yehudi Menuhin School of Music at Stoke d’Abernon in Surrey, England, where it is still operating today. Yehudi Menuhin died in 1999.

The files in the Music For Galway Archive here in the James Hardiman Library relating to the concert by the Irish Chamber Orchestra and conducted by Sir Yehudi Menuhin are listed below:



The Irish Chamber Orchestra
20 Nov 1988
Printed programme from the concert conducted by Sir Yehudi Menuhin and featuring Daire Fitzgerald, held at Leisureland, Salthill, Galway.
 Includes details of pieces performed, notes on each piece  
and information on individual musicians. (3 copies, 8 pp)
 Financial information including fees, expenditure and
expected income; draft TS press releases and a
biographical essay on Sir Yehudi Menuhin.         31 pp

The Irish Chamber Orchestra (Yehudi Menuhin)
Nov 1988
Colour photographs, 151mm X 101mm, from a public occasion,
attended by the Mayor of Galway, in honour of Yehudi Menuhin.
Also pictured playing the fiddle is musician Frankie Gavin.
Yehudi is also pictured signing an official register/visitor’s
 book, with the Galway city crest on it.        28 items

The Irish Chamber Orchestra (Yehudi Menuhin)
Assorted press cuttings taken from the Sunday Press
and other unnamed publications reporting from the
Irish Chamber Orchestra and Yehudi Menuhin concert
 in Galway. Includes black and white images of Menuhin.    7 items

The Menuhin Archive is housed at the Royal Academy of
Music, London. The catalogue can be searched here: http://apollo.ram.ac.uk/emuweb/pages/ram/results.php

The Music For Galway Archive is currently being
catalogued here at the James Hardiman Library.
For any enquiries email barry.houlihan@nuigalway.ie

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