Friday 1 April 2016

A labour of love - the release of the Menuhin Century

The Menuhin Century
This year is violinist Yehudi Menuhin's centenary and the event is being celebrated in a number of ways. There is an exhibition at the Royal Academy of Music's museum, Yehudi Menuhin: Journeys with a violin which displays varied highlights from Menuhin's huge personal archive which is held at the academy, giving us a glimpse of his remarkable career (he gave his first public performance in 1922 and last performance as a violinist in 1998). The museum was the venue for the official launch of another remarkable Menuhin commemoration, the release of the boxed set The Menuhin Century on Warner Classics. This is more than just a boxed set, it consists of 80 CDs, 11 DVDs and a book, giving a remarkable overview of Menuhin's career from his first European recording made at the age of 13.

The Menuhin Century was curated in close collaboration with the film maker Bruno Monsaingeon. Monsaingeon not only directed a number of films which appear on the DVDs in the box, but was a close friend of Menuhin's with an apparently encyclopaedic knowledge of all Menuhin's performances. This means that the set includes many recordings which lovers of Menuhin's art many not have or may not know of. The complete set is available from and the individual boxes are available separately.

Yehudi Menuhin and Edward Elgar at Abbey Road Studios - Copyright: Warner Classics Archives
Yehudi Menuhin & Edward Elgar
at Abbey Road Studios
Copyright: Warner Classics Archives
Around 60% of the recordings are not currently easily available on CD, and around 30% are rare or never before released recordings. These include some which had never appeared and at the launch Monsaingeon described the excitement at discovering previously unreleased recordings which had never been edited. Quite a lot of detective work has been done to source rare recordings such as Menuhin's Edinburgh performance from 1968 of Britten's Violin Concerto, with the London Symphony Orchestra and István Kertész which was broadcast by the BBC but not kept by them as a transcription recording.

The original idea for the set was to make it complete (Menuhin stayed with the same recording company, originally HMV throughout his life), but this would have meant 193 very full CDs. As it is, the set is 80 CDs and seems to have been something of a labour of love not just for Monsaingeon but for the executives as Warner Classics. It is certainly a long way from a simply re-boxing of existing recordings.

The set is organised thematically with six boxes.
  • Box 1 is unpublished recordings and rarities including a version of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with Sir Adrian Boult specially edited for this set. 
  • Box 2 is historic recordings, not just the Elgar Violin Concerto made with the composer but Menuhin's  pioneering recording of the Bach sonatas and partitas from the 1930's. 
  • Box 3 is live performances including the first ever concert he recorded, in 1940 at Carnegie Hall with Bach's E major concerto BWV 1042 and the set ends with Menuhin the conductor with recordings with his Bath Festival orchestra on CD for the first time. 
  • Box 4 is the complete recordings Menuhin made with his sister Hephzibah, 20 CD's in all with recordings ranging from the 1930's to the 1970's including a recording of Beethoven's Archduke Trio which was specially edited for this set and represents a new addition to the Menuhin discography. 
  • Box 5 is his virtuoso and landmark recordings from youthful recordings of Sarasate, the complete Beethoven sonatas with Louis Kentner and his last recording as a violinist, made with his son Jeremy. 
  • Box 6 is Menuhin on film, with 11 DVD's including Bruno Monsaingeon's three hour Conversations with Yehudi Menuhin - Mykonos, June 1994 and his first recording on film dating from 1947. There is also Bruno Monsaingeon's book Passion Menuhin which has previously appeared in French but appears in French and German for the first time.

Available from, iTunes and Spotify

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