Yehudi Menuhin arrives in Brisbane (1951)

On June 11, 1951, violinist Yehudi Menuhin arrived in Brisbane to give two recitals at City Hall. Accompanying him was his wife, former ballerina Diana Gould, his sister Hephzibah and Leon Pommers, an “associate artist”.

Yehudi Menuhin at Brisbane Airport with with wife (left) and his sister, Hepzibah (Mrs Lindsay Nicholas), 1951. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 195688

Yehudi Menuhin at Brisbane Airport with with wife (left) and his sister, Hepzibah (Mrs Lindsay Nicholas), 1951. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 195688

Menuhin had visited Brisbane 16 years earlier as a 19-year-old. On arrival at the airport, Menuhin took personal charge of his canvas case of violins while the rest of his luggage was sent on to Lennon’s Hotel. He was rightly cautious, as the Courier-Mail reported that his two 18th century Stradivarius violins were valued at £26,675 each (more than $1 million in today’s currency). His wife confessed to reporters that her husband was indeed protective of his violins, saying, “I haven’t seen them properly before. I’m not allowed to touch them.”

Yehudi Menuhin and his sister Hephzibah. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 195690

Yehudi Menuhin and his sister Hephzibah. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 195690

Advertisement, Sunday Mail, June 3, 1951

Advertisement, Sunday Mail, June 3, 1951

Menuhin performed at the City Hall on June 12 and 14. At the first performance he was assisted by pianist Pommers and the concert was attended by Queensland governor Sir John Lavarack and Lady Lavarack. He opened with Brahms’ Sonata in D Minor Opus 108; an impressed reviewer for the Courier-Mail thrilled to the violinist’s “infallible technique” and “complete surrender to the dedication of the mood”.

View of Brisbane City Hall, Queensland ca. 1952. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 188017

View of Brisbane City Hall, Queensland ca. 1952. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 188017

Violinist Yehudi Menuhin with sister Hephzibah (left), wife, former ballerina, Diana Gould, and Mrs T. Foley, at an informal reception at the Brisbane City Hall on Wednesday 13 June 1951. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 105789

Violinist Yehudi Menuhin with sister Hephzibah (left), wife, former ballerina, Diana Gould, and Mrs T. Foley, at an informal reception at the Brisbane City Hall on Wednesday 13 June 1951. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 105789

The reviewer was less impressed with the performance of Mendelssohn’s Concerto in E Minor, “where accelerated tempi did irreparable violence to the integral lyrical mood, resulting in an air of breathlessness … ” For Menuhin’s second and final concert, he was assisted by Hephzibah on piano and the Courier-Mail reported “a record audience packed the hall, and scores stood throughout the two-hour performance”.

Myles Sinnamon – Project Coordinator, State Library of Queensland