The Gstaad Menuhin Festival, whose founder Yehudi Menuhin would have turned 100 on Friday, has paid tribute to violinist, who is recognised as one of the most exceptional musicians of his times.
Menuhin was also a conductor, teacher, impresario and supporter of human rights. American-born, he had a Swiss passport, linked to his family’s 40-year residency in Gstaad, in the Bernese Oberland. Menuhin died in 1999, aged 82.
“He was a kind of pioneer in every sense and far ahead of our times,” Christoph Müller, the festival’s intendant, told swissinfo.ch.
“He worked already on the topic of how to bring music to different generations, to different parts of society and on school music programmes. He did a lot to connect different cultures and musical styles.”
In the 1950s Menuhin and his family were searching for a summer residence, a place where the maestro could rest and relax from his travels and countless concerts, as well as somewhere his children could go to international school and profit from a quiet atmosphere.
He decided on Gstaad and built a chalet there. In 1957 Menuhin performed the first two concerts in Gstaad together with British composer Benjamin Britten at the piano.
“Now we are 65 concerts and 25,000 people, over a seven-week festival. He built up the tradition of classic music not just in an urban centre, but in a rural setting and he made it possible because he managed the festival himself with his secretary Eleanor Hope for 40 years,” Müller said.
The violinist also founded the International Menuhin Music Academy, which develops the talents of gifted strong musicians from all over the world, during that time.
Müller said the festival was honoured to take care of the maestro’s legacy and “we try to connect the festival of today with the spirit of Menuhin”.
This year’s Gstaad Menuhin Festival will pay homage to its founded, while also celebrating 60 years of concerts. There will be two commemorative performances of Mozart’s Requiem, one of the first works Menuhin conducted himself, Müller said.
Also on the programme is a concert performed by young violin prize-winners, duplicating the concert Menuhin performed in Berlin on April 12, 1929, aged just 13, featuring concertos by Bach (E major), Beethoven and Brahms.
At the end of the festival there will be a “birthday party” featuring six great violinists from different musical worlds, like jazz and world music.