Los Angeles Times

Thursday, 14 June 2001

Yaltah Menuhin; Concert Pianist, Younger Sister of Famed Violinist

She was only the little sister. But she had a lot of musical talent too.
Yaltah Menuhin, younger sibling of the late violinist Yehudi Menuhin and respected pianist in her own right, has died. She was 79. She died Saturday in her London home.
Although her brother, who died in 1999, achieved the greatest international fame, Yaltah and her older sister, Hephzibah, who died in 1981, received extensive musical training as they grew up in San Francisco.
Yaltah Menuhin studied piano with Marcel Ciampi in Paris, Armando Silvestri in Rome and Carl Friedberg at the Julliard School in New York.
She recorded classical piano pieces and gave solo performances with orchestras from Califonia to Paris and Geneva. She also became known for her work in chamber groups, notably with violinist Eudice Shapiro and cellist Victor Gottlieb.
Occasionally, Menuhin performed with her famous brother and with her sister. In 1966, at Yehudi Menuhin's 50th birthday concert in London's Royal Festival Hall, he conducted Mozart's Concerto for three piano's and orchestra with Yaltah, Hephzibah and his son Jeremy as the pianists.
In 1950, Yaltah Menuhin charmed an audience at Los Angeles' Wilshire Ebell Theater when she performed with violinist Israel Baker. Times critic Albert Goldberg called each "an excellent musician in his own right'" and said "their ensemble offers a good deal of interst by reason of the vitality of the perfomance and the freshness of approach."
Menuhin also performed piano solo's with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and the Orange County Philharmonic in the 1950s.
In one 1958 concert with the Orange County orchestra at Fullerton Union High School, she played one of her signature pieces, Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 1.
By the 1960s, Menuhin was performing four-handed piano works with her third husband, pianist Joel Ryce.
"The husband-and-wife team has devised an act of considerable potential," Times critic Walter Arlen said when the duo performed at Beverly Hills High School under sponsorhip of the Beverly Hills Music Association in 1965. "It offers variety, flexibility and the enticing promise contained in lots of four-hand music which, like a buried treasure, lies waiting to be rediscovered."
Menuhin's parents, Moshe and Marutha, developed a reputation for controlling the lives and careers of their talented offspring, particularly Yehudi's. Yaltah, as the youngest, developed her own reputation as the most rebellious of the three.
She married for the first time when she was 16. That was to St. Louis attorney William Stix, 10 years her senior, a staff lawyer for the National Labor Relations Board. They separated after six months and, in a document filed by her mother as her guardian, she obtained a divorce in San Jose Superior Court.
Next, at the age of 20, Yaltah eloped to Reno and married Benjamin "Bud" Rolfe, a 27-year-old soldier then stationed at Fort Ord in California.
"We just discovered it. We are shocked. Yaltah came to us and confessed. It will take time to swallow and digest the news," her father told the news media six decades ago. "There have been several young men here. There was Tom, and Dick, and Harry - and there was Bud."
Asked if the young couple had received the Menuhin parents' blessing, her father said: "We are still adjusting ourselves."
That marriage produced Yaltah Menuhin's two surviving sons, Robert and Lionel Rolfe. After her divorce from Rolfe, she married Ryce in 1960. He died in 1998.
Yaltah Menuhin rarely performed in her recent years, but only last week played a program of Chopin and Debussy at a school in Ipswich, England.

Myrna Oliver

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