Memories of Menuhin – A Centennial Offering

Yehudi_Menuhin_43Yehudi Menuhin (b. April 22, 1916 d. March 12, 1999)
It seems like yesterday, but it was many decades ago – in the spring of 1949 – when I first met violinist Yehudi Menuhin and his pianist sister Hephzibah at the downtown New Empire Theatre in Calcutta. The duo had been booked by the Calcutta School of Music for a much anticipated recital program as part of CSM’s annual concert series.

menuhin duo

In remembering Menuhin on his 100th birth anniversary, I’m reminded of his low-key demeanor and old-world charm on and off the stage. I recall a conversation in the artists’ dressing room when I asked him to autograph the evening’s recital program for me. Before so doing, he inquired about my own musical background and aspirations. I said it was my intention to go to London later that year for further studies.

Thereupon, he scribbled a note on the program itself above his signature reading:

Louis, I (re)commend Azim to you as a student.
MenuhinYehudiSignature04

And that was that! I was completely bowled over that it was his well-known pianist brother-in-law, Louis Kentner, that he had in mind. Even though I did eventually go to the Royal Academy of Music, I ended for logistical and planning reasons with becoming a student of Professor Frederick Jackson instead of Kentner.

enescuThe next memorable occasion was in the fall of 1958 when I was attending as India’s sole representative the Georges Enescu Music Festival in Bucharest, Rumania (Enescu’s image is alongside.)

As part of the celebratory concerts, the most prominent one was the performance of Bach’s Double Violin Concerto by David Oistrakh and Yehudi Menuhin (shown here on YouTube.) OistrakhBoth world-class violinists rose to the occasion and gave a spirited rendering of that great work, which was met with thunderous applause by the rapt audience. At the post-concert reception, I was able to renew acquaintances with both Menuhin and Oistrakh (image alongside) – the latter had traveled by the same plane I had taken to get to the Festival. As to the former, I brought Menuhin up-to-date with my own development sans Kentner as a pianist over the past nine years since we’d last met back in Calcutta.

The last time our paths crossed was in Miami, Florida, when he was at the International Airport on his way in from Europe and I was on my way out to London. Menuhin looked much frailer, but still had a spring in his step. I told him about my move to the States in 1975 with my pianist wife Lolita and family of three girls and my career change from piano playing around the world to running orchestras in the USA.

And then, with time running out to board my plane, it was left for me to say au revoir to him and for him to wish me bon voyage.

Sources:
My Field Notes (1948-78); Wikipedia.

Copyright © 2016 Azim Lewis Mayadas

 

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