Between his birth in New York on 22 April 1916 and his death in Berlin on 12 March 1999, Yehudi Menuhin, the son of humble Russian immigrants, grew from a brilliant child prodigy violinist, who made his public concert début in San Francisco in 1924, aged just 7, into not just one of the 20th century s finest and most celebrated artists (as a conductor as well as a soloist), but also a peace campaigner, civil rights activist, spiritual guru and revered senior statesman of the musical world, who ended his days as the Right Honourable the Lord Menuhin of Stoke d Abernon, with a seat in the House of Lords, yet also found time to establish two music schools, a violin competition and an international scheme for taking music out of the concert hall and into the wider community.
Now, to celebrate Yehudi Menuhin s centenary in 2016, Sony Classical is releasing Yehudi Menuhin The Complete American Victor Recordings, a 6-CD set bringing together legendary early recordings by this titan among 20th-century violinists.
Gems of the set include the first ever releases in any format of two previously unpublished items: the December 1949 recordings of Beethoven s Spring and Kreutzer Sonatas with Menuhin s sister Hephzibah at the piano.
Also included are the first official CD releases (all transferred from the original analogue master discs and tapes) of Mendelssohn s teenage D minor Violin Concerto (a work that Menuhin himself rescued from oblivion, buying and editing the surviving manuscript and premièring it at Carnegie Hall in February 1952, two days before making this recording), Bach s Sonata No. 3 (a historic 1944 recording with the legendary Polish harpsichordist Wanda Landowska) and Bartók s Sonata No. 1 (a vividly intense 1947 account of a work that Menuhin had played for the composer himself just four years earlier and in which the violinist is impressively abetted by the pianist Adolph Baller, a Polish-born musician who was Menuhin s regular accompanist and chamber music partner from 1939 until after WW2, despite having had all his fingers broken by Nazi torturers in Vienna before his escape from Europe). Also making its first official appearance on CD is a 1951 account of Bruch s ever-popular Concerto No. 1 with Charles Munch and the Boston Symphony (Menuhin s only collaboration on disc with the Alsatian violinist turned conductor), which sits alongside Menuhin s better-known 1945 recording of the same work with Monteux and the San Francisco Symphony and his 1946 première recording of Bartók s Violin Concerto No. 2 with Antal Doráti and the Dallas Symphony. The set also includes the first ever CD release of two songs (Rachmaninoff s In the Silent Night and Handel s Ombra mai fu ) with the leading Metropolitan Opera baritone Robert Merrill.
Finally, a special disc in the set couples newly remastered versions of the very first (1928) recordings that the 11-year-old Menuhin ever made a set of stylishly played encore items, with his beloved teacher Louis Persinger at the piano with previously unreleased encore pieces by Kreisler and Wieniawski from 1929.