Menuhin Lives on at S.F. State

Janos Gereben on February 11, 2014
Yehudi Menuhin, with yoga instructor, 1953
Yehudi Menuhin, with yoga instructor, 1953

Fervent yoga practitioner Yehudi Menuhin — long before the number of Americans practicing yoga reached 20 million, investing $27 billion a year in it — loved to stand on his head. Still, I was startled way back then when I interviewed him in Dallas, and suddenly I was addressing his feet where his head was before. He continued the stance for the next half hour.

One reason for recollecting that memory is the splendid Yoga: the Art of Transformation exhibit, coming from the Smithsonian to the Asian Art Museum on Feb. 21.

The other is the arrival of the 11th annual Yehudi Menuhin Chamber Music Seminar and Festival at San Francisco State University, Feb. 14-15. It's a free event, but reservations are required.

Besides the Dallas interview, there is a host of reasons to remember Menuhin, especially in this city — his family from Belarus moving to New York (where he was born), and then to here where Menuhin made his solo debut with the San Francisco Symphony ... at age 7.

Also, about the early years, we never miss the opportunity when writing about the city's grand Pacific Musical Society to mention that Menuhin was among its first competition winners more than a century ago.

Aleron Trio: Solenn Séguillon, violin; Sophie Xuefei Zhang, piano; Anne Suda, cello
Aleron Trio: Solenn Séguillon, violin; Sophie Xuefei Zhang, piano; Anne Suda, cello

Then, of course, there were the decades of global triumphs until the death of Lord Menuhin of Stoke d'Abernon in 1999, as a violinist, a teacher, a founder of schools and festivals, an advocate for human rights and peace. (And just one last local connection: Menuhin's parents — Moshe and Marutha Menuhin — lived in Los Gatos from the 1930s until they died in the 1990s.)

The Alexander String Quartet is the founder and director of the festival, and violist Paul Yarbrough is the artistic director this year. Besides the quartet, the festival has a starry cast: violist Toby Appel from the Juilliard School faculty; Naumberg Prize and Irving M. Klein String Competition winning cellist David Requiro; double bassist, composer, and S.F. State lecturer Shinji Eshima; pianists Sarah Cahill and Laura Dahl; and SFSU State Assistant Professor and soprano Christine Brandes.

Also, the young artists the Aleron Trio, Échappé Quartet, Consonare Trio, Holloway Trio, Nyx Quartet, and Friction Quartet.

Violist Paul Yarbrough is artistic director
Violist Paul Yarbrough is artistic director

Highlights of the program are works by Schubert and Bartók on Feb. 14; Schubert and Beethoven on Feb. 15; Schubert, Beethoven, and Brahms on Feb. 16. The emphasis is on Schubert, "his brilliant contribution to the chamber and vocal repertoire — in a broader sense, we also celebrate music and its transformative power in the world."

The event will also inaugurate an award for young chamber ensembles, named for Jane Galante, Morrison Trust founding trustee and board member for 55 years; the award to be presented at the Sunday concert.

Briefly, here are some of the events in addition to the concerts, all open to the public:

* Thursday: Jane Galante Prize Final Auditions (Knuth Hall), 5-6:15 p.m.

* Friday: Masterclasses for Nyx, Holloway, Aleron, Consonare, 2-4 p.m.

* Saturday: Masterclasses for Friction and Aleron, 1-2 p.m.; for Holloway and Nyx, 2:15-3:15 p.m.; for Consonare and Nyx, 3:30-5 p.m.

* Sunday: Masterclasses for Holloway, Consonare, Nyx, Échappé, 1-3:30 p.m.; Alexander Quartet presentation, Bartok and Kodaly, 3:45-4:45 p.m.