The Times

Monday, 11 June 2001

Yaltah Menuhin

Pianist who accompanied her famous brother

The pianist Yaltah Menuhin was the youngest of the three musical Menuhin siblings. Although her mother saw no musical prospects for her third child, both the violin-playing Yehudi and the piano-playing Hephzibah considerd Yaltah to be the most gifted of them all. Together the trio appeared in concerts across the world and were a mainstay of the Bath Music Festival, where Yehudi was artistic director throughout the 1960's.

Yaltah's performing years were spent largely in the United States, where she formed a popular duo with her husband, the pianist Joel Ryce. They played together either as four hands on one piano, or in a two-piano arrangement. She also formed a partnership with the violist Michael Mann, son of Thomas Mann.

Yaltah Menuhin was born to Russian-Jewish parents. Her formidable mother, Marutha, was from a Crimean family which belonged to the tiny Karaite sect and fled the pogroms in 1904. Yaltah was named after the Black Sea resort. As the talents of Marutha's first two children became apparent, the family engaged in a nomadic life-style in order that the children could always be together. But Marutha did little to encourage her youngest child, who remembered her mother as a tyrant, responsible not only for neglecting her children but for breaking up her son's first marriage.

Yaltah began playing the piano at the age of three and studied in Paris with Marcel Ciampi and later at the Juilliard in New York with Carl Friedberg. As the Menuhin travelling circus moved around the world, governesses taught the siblings in the local language.

Like Hephzibah, Yaltah occasionally accompanied Yehudi, and from time to time all three would appear together, such as at Yehudi's 50th birthday concert at the Royal Festival Hall in 1966, when he conducted his sisters and his son, Jeremy, in Mozart's three-piano concerto.

Hers was a well known name in the concert halls of Los Angeles, where the music of Mendelssohn, Mozart and Chopin was her prime strength.

Over the last two or three years Yaltah returned occasionally to the keyboard. She revised old works and revisited pieces that she had not performed for several decades. Her valedictory concert was last Wednesday at Orwell Park School, Ipswich, where she played a heavy programme of preludes by Chopin and Debussy.

Hephzibah died in 1981 and Yehudi - by then Lord Menuhin - died in 1999.

Yaltah was briefly married at the age of 16. She married Benjamin Rolfe in 1941 but they divorced. In 1960 she married Ryce who predeceased her three years ago. She is survived by the two sons of her second marriage.

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