Lengthy Typed Letter Signed about the Violinist’s Collaboration on the Film “Concert Magic:” “I could not possibly be bound to play a score which I would not find satisfactory, or to see myself or my music improperly projected”

Signed by Yehudi Menuhin

Item: 18760
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MENUHIN, YEHUDI. (1916-1999). American concert violinist and conductor renowned for his technical virtuosity and as a champion of diverse musical and humanitarian causes. Lengthy TLS. (“Yehudi Menuhin”). On two sheets with several minor holograph corrections. 2pp. 4to. Montana-Vermala, September 3, 1946. To director PAUL GORDON (?-?).

Our good and mutual friend, Mr. Kantorowitz, sent me your letter of August 24th written as you were about to sail. I am very sorry that you interpreted my telegram as an indication of change of mind or heart. On the contrary, I felt that my serious and critical response to the script and the proposition would convey more than anything else ‘my honest intentions’. I have never been in the habit of soliciting any offer and therefore I did not know quite how to frame the message which you would have wished.

I could not honestly go into raptures over the script, as you have already so well understood, nor could I plead for anything on my own behalf. I feel that if your board of directors and if you want my services and think they will be of use in the production, it is up to me to show in what manner I would like to perform the services and not attempt to make up the minds of your board of directors in my favour.

As I have already had some experience in the ‘Magic Bow’, I wish to put that experience to good use and to remedy those faults that might have been within my power to avoid. These are, as you may have gathered from reviews, the unharmonious couplings of the music with the screen-play. The ‘Magic Bow’ sold and enjoyed its success mainly because of the music and the only criticism brought against it, which I feel falls within my domain, is the one that the music is often contradicted and not allowed its full value because of mishandling.

Also I would like to offer my ideas with regard to the script and other matters more remotely related to my share in the picture. I know that those matters lie entirely outside my domain. I felt, however, when I discussed the matter in Zurich that I was speaking with someone who would be open to every suggestion, as I am myself, and with whom one could reach a very happy and fruitful degree of collaboration.

We all need stimulation and criticism from the outside and especially in an undertaking which has so many facets to it as a picture involving text, photography, music and other factors. It is most useful when the people in charge of these different parts are sympathetic to each other and can accept suggestions.

Unfortunately, as I have found out by experience, it is necessary to specify quite clearly at the outset the conditions one wishes to work under, as with the best intentions in the world, it might be impossible for you always to secure the proper collaboration of your music people and other staff with my ideas. You will understand that I could not possibly be bound to play a score which I would not find satisfactory, or to see myself or my music improperly projected.

I genuinely feel, however, that most of these precautions will probably remain entirely theoretical and will never be called into use between us.

As you write in your last paragraph “Seien Sie versichert, ich waere sehr glücklich wenn Menuhin die Sache macht, aber weder zureden, noch will ich jemanden zwingen.” [Rest assured, I would be very happy if Menuhin joins in, but I don’t want to persuade or force anyone.] Exactly so. If we are able to join forces in this project, I do not want to use any persuasion what-so-ever and would like our collaboration to be entirely free-willed.

As for your board of directors, I felt it was quite sufficient to meet them materially speaking, as it was after all the main concern with them.

In agreeing to accept my remuneration almost entirely on a %age basis (15%) and forfeiting therefore the assured and guaranteed immediate fee, except for 5000 dollars at the time of the recording – to cover expenses, I felt I was doing all I needed to meet them more than half way, as you explained to me the film was already costing twice as much as they had anticipated and you felt that they could not accept a large guarantee in addition to the obligations they were already going to assume.

The time for my recording is still between the 12th of November and the 24th of December and I am looking forward to receiving the script you promised.

I will be sending the pictures you requested shortly…”

Menuhin made his professional debut at age eight and by the time he penned our letter he had achieved international acclaim and whose skills and “purity of style and depth of interpretive power that he displays in his finest performances place them in the highest category,” (The New Grove Dictionary). He was at the height of his fame when Gordon approached him about collaborating on a film to be produced by the Concert Film Corporation. Concert Magic, released in 1947, was billed as “the first motion picture concert,” for which Menuhin recorded a number of works at Charlie Chaplin Studios, including Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto and works by Bach, Paganini, Beethoven, and Schubert. Menuhin was enthusiastic about “having some of his performances caught on film for posterity. He was so enthusiastic that it seems he worked for Gordon’s Concert Film Corporation for very little money, banking on the movie making a profit and paying him royalties, such as he received for his sound recordings. His father, a much better businessman, was appalled, especially as he felt that Yehudi was dirtying his hands in having anything to do with Hollywood,” (“The Story Behind Concert Magic,” www.medici.tv/mobile/the-story-behind-concert-magic). Though the film was well received, it was only moderately successful at the box office.

For the 1946 British film The Magic Bow, based on the life of Niccolò Paganini, Menuhin recorded the violin solos and had been involved in the script’s development.

Our letter is written from the Swiss resort town of Montana, located near Gstaad where Menuhin settled in 1957 and the location of his famed Menuhin Festival. Folded with a paperclip impression in the upper left margin. Light uneven toning and a black ink stain on the second page. Broadly signed and in very good condition. Menuhin is uncommon in letters as substantive and long as the present example.

Yehudi Menuhin in The Magic Bow, based on the life of Paganini

Lengthy Typed Letter Signed about the Violinist’s Collaboration on the Film “Concert Magic:” “I could not possibly be bound to play a score which I would not find satisfactory, or to see myself or my music improperly projected”

Signed by Yehudi Menuhin

$750 • item #18760

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