Violinist Yehudi Menuhin Dead at 82

The world is mourning the passing of Yehudi Menuhin. The 82-year-old violinist, conductor, author, educator, and humanitarian died of heart failure at Berlin's Martin Luther Hospital on Friday, March 7. He was in Berlin to conduct performances of Brahms and Mendelssohn by the Warsaw Symphony Orchestra.

The son of Ukrainian-born immigrants, Menuhin was born in New York and grew up in San Francisco, where by age four he had begun studying the violin under child-prodigy specialist Sigmund Anker. His public debut took place at the age of seven, when he performed with the San Francisco Orchestra under Alfred Hertz. When he was 11, he performed the Beethoven Violin Concerto---a composition that was to become one of his signature pieces---at Carnegie Hall with the New York Symphony, led by Fritz Busch. After his first concert in Berlin, a few days before his 13th birthday, Albert Einstein is said to have followed him backstage and remarked, "Now I know there is a God in heaven." Menuhin made a grueling world tour in 1935, when he was only 21, giving 110 concerts in 63 cities and 13 countries.

In his seven-decade career, Menuhin performed with and/or conducted almost all of the major orchestras in the world. He collaborated with many classical music stars, as well as with jazz violinist Stéphane Grappelli and Indian sitar master Ravi Shankar. His prolific recording career spanned almost the entirety of the 20th century, from monophonic 78rpm records and wire recordings to compact discs. Recordings in all formats featuring Menuhin number in the hundreds.

Education and world peace were Menuhin's abiding passions, causes for which he both wrote and performed. He gave more than 500 performances for Allied troops during World War II, and drew the wrath of the nation of Israel for his conciliatory gesture toward Germany, where he performed with the Berlin Philharmonic just two years after the war. Menuhin did not hesitate to speak out against military aggression of any kind, and again irritated the Israeli government by insisting on performing in Arab nations after the Six-Day War in 1967.

Menuhin believed fervently in the power of music to overcome religious, cultural, and political differences. He received the Nehru Peace Prize for International Understanding in 1960. UNESCO awarded him the title of Ambassador of Goodwill in 1992, and the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation gave him the Distinguished Peace Leadership Award in 1997.

Menuhin founded several schools where music students could nurture their gifts and receive academic training. He established a charity, Live Music Now, that enables talented young musicians to play in churches, schools, hospitals, prisons, and other institutions for the benefit of the poor, the ill, and the elderly. He was bestowed highest honors by many European governments---including knighthood, the Order of Merit, and a Life Peerage, by England's Queen Elizabeth II.

America's Kennedy Center hosts an extensive website on Menuhin, who held 27 honorary doctorates from universities throughout the world. Because of his continued efforts to support Chinese musicians, he received an Honorary Professorship from the Beijing Conservatoire, making him the first Westerner to be so honored.

Yehudi Menuhin's philosophy is often quoted as the Menuhin Foundation's mission statement: "Each human being has the eternal duty of turning what is hard and brutal into a tender and subtle offering, what is crude into an object of refinement, what is ugly into a thing of beauty, confrontation into collaboration, ignorance into knowledge, hereby rediscovering the child's dream of a creative reality incessantly renewed by death, the servant of life, and by life, the servant of love."

Berlin concert promoter Jutta Adler told the Associated Press that preparations were underway for a funeral to be held in London, where Menuhin lived with his second wife, ballerina Diana Gould.