Lord Yehudi Menuhin

“Now I know there is a God in Heaven!” Albert Einstein is said to have exclaimed as he embraced Yehudi Menuhin, who was just 13 years old, in the Berlin Philharmonic. Lord Yehudi Menuhin, who was born exactly one hundred years ago, was the most famous violin virtuoso of the 20th century. He was already considered a child prodigy at the age of seven after dazzling 9,000 visitors in San Francisco with a sensitive interpretation of Mendelssohn Bartholdy’s Violin Concerto.

At the age of ten he played in Paris, at eleven in New York’s Carnegie Hall. But Menuhin, who also had a world career as a conductor, was more than a musical genius. He was a humanist authority, a teacher of humanity, as Einstein once called him. He stood up for human rights in the USSR and in China when that was unpopular. With his more than 500 concerts during the Second World War, he helped war victims and refugee children, performed in front of the liberated prisoners of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945, and in war-torn Berlin he demonstratively played under the ostracised Wilhelm Furtwängler, Hitler’s favourite conductor. As a co-founder of the Global Citizens Movement (Weltbürgerbewegung), he warned against the neoliberal global economic wars we are experiencing today. Rita Süssmuth, then President of the German Bundestag, noted in a newspaper article on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the World Citizens Movement, which was born in Paris in 1948, that human rights would probably never have been proclaimed “had it not been for a few courageous people in Paris in 1948, such as the philosopher Albert Camus, the former US bomber pilot Garry Davis and Yehudi Menuhin, who publicly exerted pressure on the UN members”.

Why are we telling you all this? Because Eric Bihl, the chairman of Equilibrismus e.V., was allowed to meet Yehudi Menuhin, who was knighted by the Queen Elizabeth II in 1985, in person shortly before his death. After all, Lord Yehudi Menuhin always loudly reminded us of the fragile unity of planet Earth. And it was precisely this commitment that led us to make contact with this extraordinary person. We communicated back and forth for 6 months until, in December 1998, Menuhin asked us to send him our press kit, which explained the philosophy and purpose of Equilibrism in detail.

Am 10. Januar 1999 erhielten wir ein persönliches Dankschreiben des Maestros, der das Prinzip des Equilibrismus sehr schnell erfasst hatte. This gave us the idea of asking him to write the foreword for the non-fiction book then in progress, Equilibrism – New Ways Instead of Reforms for a World in Balance, for which we received an astonishingly quick assent. Seven weeks later, on February 23, we received a fax from his secretary with which Yehudi Menuhin invited Eric Bihl to a meeting in his suite at the Vier Jahreszeiten Hotel in Munich on March 2, immediately after a concert (it was to be his last). The meeting was marked by great cordiality and sympathy. Lord Menuhin even showed himself willing to continue to support us strongly beyond the foreword. Could we have wished for a better supporter? After the extraordinarily stimulating conversation, Menuhin accompanied his guest, Eric Bihl, in the lift down to the entrance portal, where they said goodbye full of confidence in the common cause. Ten days later, on March 12, came the shock. The news went around the world: Lord Yehudi Menuhin had died of the consequences of feverish bronchitis during his tour of Germany in Berlin at the age of 82.


The spirit of this great man accompanies us until today; in our thoughts we are still with him. Occasionally we ask ourselves what power might have wanted to prevent us from a fruitful collaboration. But of course, such questions are idle: life and death have their own laws, probably nobody knew that better than the Maestro…