Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Yehudi Menuhin: Schubert's Ave Maria

Yehudi Menuhin plays Schubert's Ave Maria, in a 1947 performance with  Adolph Baller as pianist. For several years Baller accompanied Menuhin in performances throughout the world and performed in chamber concerts. Under Menuhin's patronage, Baller, along with  Gabor Rejto and Roman Totenberg formed the Alma Trio in 1942.

Franz Peter Schubert [1797-1828] wrote the Ave Maria in 1825 when he was twenty-eight years old. It is part of a cycle of several songs Schubert wrote for Sir Walter Scott's "Lady of the Lake." In his brief but productive career, Schubert penned almost one thousand works, most of them songs. But he also wrote nine complete symphonies, and two movements of an unfinished symphony. Franz Schubert died of typhoid fever at thirty-one.


There is a story as to how Yehudi Menuhin [1916-1999] got his first name. It has everything to do with the zeitgeist of some parts, and some people, who resided in New York City during the early part of the twentieth century.

Before Yehudi was born in 1916, his parents, Marutha and Moshe Menuhin, were looking for an apartment to rent near a park. After they passed inspection from the landlady, she remarked that they were a nice couple. She added, not knowing their origins, "And you'll be glad to know I don't take Jews," which was supposed to be a reassuring remark in certain quarters.

Needless to say, Menuhin's parents didn't rent from this anti-Semitic landlady, since they were decidedly Jewish and aghast that such sentiments could prevail, even in America. His mother, Marutha, then vowed that she would name her unborn child so as to ensure that no one would forget who he was. Thus the name Yehudi, or "The Jew."

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