Yfrah Neaman

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Yfrah Neaman

Yfrah Neaman, OBE (13 February 1923 – 4 January 2003) was a concert violinist and an eminent pedagogue.

Early life[edit]

Neaman was born in Sidon, Lebanon, to Jewish parents. He lived in Tel Aviv until 1932 when he moved to Paris to study at the Paris Conservatoire. In 1937 at the age of 14 he won the Premier Prix, the youngest ever student to do so, alongside Henryk Szeryng. After his studies in Paris, Neaman travelled to London to study with Carl Flesch,[1] and in 1939 returned to France to study with Jacques Thibaud. Following the German invasion of France in 1940, Neaman settled in London where he continued his studies with Max Rostal.


Once settled in London Neaman met Dame Myra Hess and Howard Ferguson, both of whom became life-long friends. They invited him to play for their National Gallery lunchtime concert series and during the next few years Neaman gave 15 National Gallery concerts.[2] Yfrah Neaman’s major debut came in December 1944 when he was asked to replace Rostal in a performance of the Beethoven concerto with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Anatole Fistoulari at the Cambridge Theatre. James Agate’s review described Neaman's playing as 'electrifying' and ‘in the Heifetz manner’. Over the next three decades Neaman toured the world playing concerti, recitals, chamber music and broadcasting extensively on BBC radio.

Neaman championed the work of many twentieth-century composers. In 1946 Ferguson wrote his second sonata for violin and piano in F sharp minor for his duo recitals with Yfrah Neaman and they premiered the work on a tour of the Netherlands in 1947. Neaman and Ferguson's professional duo partnership lasted for over 20 years. Neaman gave the UK première in Bournemouth in 1950 of the orchestral version of Ernest Bloch's Baal Shem and premiered Arnold Cooke's Violin Concerto at the Cheltenham Festival in 1959 with the Hallé Orchestra under John Barbirolli. He also gave the first performances in Britain of the violin concertos of Walter Piston (1952), Roberto Gerhard (1955) and Malcolm Lipkin (1963).

Neaman taught at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama from 1958 until his death, first as Professor of Violin, then as Head of Advanced Solo Studies. In 1998 he was made Emeritus Professor in recognition of his 40 years' service to the School. Neaman gave masterclasses all over the world and as a guest Professor had his own class four times a year at the Peter Cornelius Konservatorium in Mainz, Germany, from 1973 until his death. He was also Specialist Consultant to Wells Cathedral Music School for over 30 years.

Neaman regularly served on the juries of all the major international violin competitions as well as the early BBC Young Musician of the Year competitions. He was Artistic Director of the Carl Flesch International Violin Competition from 1968 to 1990. He was also instrumental in the launch of the Portsmouth International String Quartet Competition in 1979 (from 1988 the London International String Quartet Competition), of which he was joint artistic director with Yehudi Menuhin. Neaman also gave his support to the Musicians Benevolent Fund (now Help Musicians) and the Myra Hess Trust, the Worshipful Company of Musicians and the UK branch of the European String Teachers Association ESTA, which he founded in 1973 alongside Jack Bornoff, Wallis Hunt, Nannie Jamieson, Robert Masters, Yehudi Menhuin and Max Rostal at an open meeting at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Yfrah Neaman was Vice-Chairman of the organisation for 25 years and was made an Honorary Vice-Chairman in 1999.

Among Yfrah Neaman's students were Krzysztof Smietana, David Takeno, Masayuki Kino, Wolfgang David, Simon Fischer, Norman Foxwell, Drew Lecher, Vanya Milanova, Eugene Sarbu, Takashi Shimizu, Valantine Stephanov, Paul de Keyser, Sherban Loupu, Sung-Sic Yang, Gennady Filimonov, Mark Knight, Mona Kodama, Todor Nikolaev, Mihai Craioveanu, Miroslaw Bojadzijew and Radoslaw Szulc. His students Mincho Minchev, Eugene Sarbu, Xue Wei, and Sungsic Yang were all first prize winners of the Carl Flesch International Violin Competition.[3]


Neaman received many international and UK awards, including the Gutenberg-Plakette of the City of Mainz, Germany, in 1997, the Cobbet Medal of the Worshipful Company of Musicians in 1997, and the Freedom of the City of London in 1980. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1983.[4]


Yfrah Neaman died at age 79 in London, England, of cancer. He was married to Dr Gillian Shaw and has a son, Sam, and a daughter, Rachel Neaman. A tribute to Yfrah Neaman was held at the Barbican Hall, London, on 9 June 2003.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 2015-04-07T00:00:00. "Studying the violin with Carl Flesch". The Strad. Retrieved 2020-05-09.
  2. ^ "Wartime at the National Gallery". The Radio Times (3711). 1995-03-02. p. 106. ISSN 0033-8060. Retrieved 2020-05-09.
  3. ^ Sanchez-Penzo, Jose. "Carl Flesch by Jose Sanchez-Penzo - Competition". www.carl-flesch.de. Retrieved 2016-11-18.
  4. ^ "The London Gazette". www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/49375/supplement/1. Supplement:49375. 10 June 1983. p. 11.
  5. ^ "A Tribute to Yfrah Neaman – 9 June @www.classicalsource.com". www.classicalsource.com. Retrieved 2020-05-09.