Letters Show Deep Friendship of Elgar for Yehudi Menuhin
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Letters Show Deep Friendship of Elgar for Yehudi Menuhin

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Only a little while before the illness that was to end his career, Sid Edward Elgar, British composer, wrote Yehudi Menuhin:

“Your friendship has given me a new zest in life.”

And thus the affection the veteran felt for the Jewish boy violinist was expressed.

The whole story is revealed by Richard Capell, music editor of the London Daily Telegraph, who says it was a “tender affection, half paternal, half that of a brother-in-art,” which recalls no parallel except the relations between the aged Goethe and the young Mendelssohn, “and, even so, those were not colleagues in the same art.”


In the summer of 1933 Sir Edward went to Paris at the invitation of the Menuhins and upon his return to England he wrote the following letter to Yehudi:

“As I said to your sisters, I have been overwhelmed with business things since my return, or I should have written earlier to thank you for the concerto. You have made it your own, and your playing last week was, in some way, grander than last year, although last year I did not think it was possible to improve on your reading.

“A week ago today we were in the midst of it, and it remains an enduring impression for which I thank you most sincerely. I hope the photographs are not too awful; the moving ones, of course, I cannot see but I should like to have any of the still ones as a memento.

“It is really hot here, and my dear Marco and Mina—your friends—are gasping; they are quite well, however, and send their love to you…. Mr. Koussevitzky tells me that you are to visit Boston, and will play the concerto with him. He has asked me to go also, but for my second symphony. I wrote a hurried line to Mr. Enesco to thank him for all his kindness. He is a fine musician.”

It was the last letter. It ended, “Goodbye, my dear by. With love, I am your affectionate friend.”

Another letter, dated January 1, 1933, said:

“I hope this little letter may reach you before you sail to U. S. A. I want it to bring you my best wishes for the New Year, and my thanks to you for all your sympathetic playing and friendship—this last I treasure very deeply.

“At my age old friends pass away and leave the world rather empty—this is inevitable and has to be faced. Your friendship in any case must be—is—a remarkable thing.”

Capell, commenting on the correspondence, observes:

“Reading these letters, we may wonder whether any other young artist has faced life enriched with quite such a benediction as is represented by the admiration and affection of a man like Elgar, thus movingly expressed at the sunset hour of his long and glorious day.”

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