The Menuhins: A Family Odyssey
The Menuhins is the story of a miraculous family of great musicians and religious leaders. It is told here for the first time by the nephew of Yehudi Menuhin, the violinist regarded as the greatest musical prodigy since Mozart. Elements of the story have been told before: how two Russian Jews living in San Francisco, Moshe and Marutha Menuhin, raised a brood of child prodigy musicians that astounded the world. It seemed the stuff of legend. Yehudi, with his violin and his younger pianist sisters, Hephzibah and Yaltah, displayed as children a musical gift rarely equaled by the finest musicians.
But few outside the family have known the true dimensions of the Menuhin miracle, for the incredible Menuhin children were not the first prodigies in the family’s unique history. For centuries, the Menuhin line had been producing geniuses, yet the the elder Menuhins withheld the details of Yehudi’s exotic lineage. There was The MaHaRal, a great rabbi and the creator of the legendary Golem; Schneur Zalman, the founder of Chabad Hassidism and the composer of powerful religious songs; and all the great Schneersohns, the hereditary first family of the Lubavitch Hassids.
Although Rolfe, the son of Yaltah Menuhin, often focuses on his famous uncle, he has ventured beyond the Menuhin public image with an intimacy that only a Menuhin could bring to this family portrait. From the ghettos and pogroms of czarist Russia, to the settlements in Palestine at the turn of the century, to the Jewish communities in New York and San Francisco in the twenties. Rolfe takes the reader on his own personal odyssey into the past.
It is often a difficult and painful story, for The Menuhins is Rolfe’s search for his own place in the Menuhin tradition. He tells about the joys and frustrations of growing up a Menuhin: his flirtations with the Hassidic Judaism of his ancestors; his rejection by his grandfather, the volatile anti-Zionist; and his own discussions with Yehudi about everything from Mozart to the perils of white sugar to yoga and world peace.