This clip shows violinist Yehudi Menuhin describing how he and his sister, the concert pianist Hephzibah Menuhin, met their spouses, sister and brother Nola and Lindsay Nicholas, heirs to the Australian Aspro fortune. It includes home-movie footage and black-and-white photographs of the four. Shirley Nicholas (Lindsay and Nola’s stepmother) recalls that Hephzibah phoned her to say that she wanted to marry Lindsay, and when Shirley told her that he had a girlfriend in Australia, Hephzibah replied 'I can cope with that’. The clip includes a violin piece played by Yehudi Menuhin.
Educational value points
- Hephzibah Menuhin (1920-81) was a celebrated concert pianist, human rights activist and feminist. Born in the USA of Russian Jewish immigrants, Hephzibah was a child prodigy, who at the age of 8 began giving concerts with her brother Yehudi, and won the Prix du Disque at age 12. In 1938 she married Australian Lindsay Nicholas, one of the heirs to the Nicholas fortune. Hephzibah left Nicholas and their two sons in 1951 to live with and later marry Viennese sociologist Richard Hauser, a move that caused a media scandal. In 1957, they moved to London where Hephzibah continued performing while also championing human rights causes.
- Yehudi Menuhin (1916-99) is considered one of the greatest violinists of the 20th century. Like Hephzibah, Yehudi was a child prodigy and even as a teenager he was recognised as a violin virtuoso who combined technical mastery with highly charged emotional playing. Menuhin’s debut album, recorded at the age of 16, received the prestigious Prix du Disque in France. In the 1960s Yehudi also began conducting and set up the Yehudi Menuhin School in Britain for gifted young musicians. He became an honorary British subject in 1985, was knighted in 1987 and was made a life peer in 1993. Menuhin married his second wife, ballerina Diana Gould, in 1947.
- Hephzibah and Yehudi Menuhin met their spouses Lindsay and Nola Nicholas while touring Europe and the USA prior to the outbreak of the Second World War. Yehudi and Hephzibah remained close throughout their lives and, like his sister, Yehudi was a noted humanitarian. After the Second World War he went to Germany to play for inmates who had been liberated from concentration camps, a trip that had a lasting effect on him. Yehudi also became involved in environmental issues.
- After marrying Nicholas in 1938, Hephzibah moved to his sheep station in the Western District of Victoria, where she spent the next 13 years. During that time she continued to give concerts in Australia, appearing with the Melbourne and Sydney Symphony orchestras and various chamber groups. Hephzibah also set up travelling libraries for rural communities and was involved in the foundation of Musica Viva, an organisation that aims to inspire imagination and creativity through music.
- In Australia Hephzibah was exposed to radical ideas through friendships with social reformers; however, her increasing politicisation caused friction within the politically conservative Nicholas family. Later, after her marriage to Hauser and her return to London, she and her second husband established the Institute for Human Rights and Responsibilities, a grassroots organisation that they operated from their home and that set out to empower disadvantaged groups, particularly through consciousness-raising discussions. Hephzibah was also president of the British chapter of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom in the 1970s.
- Lindsay and Nola Nicholas were the children of George Nicholas, a Melbourne pharmacist who in 1915 invented Aspro, a tablet form of aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid). Nicholas developed Aspro to replace an aspirin product produced by German company Bayer, whose patent was suspended by the Australian Government during the First World War. Originally marketed as Nicholas Aspirin, it was renamed Aspro in 1917 to avoid trademark issues, and by the 1940s was the most widely used headache treatment in the world. When Nicholas died in 1960 his estate was valued at more than £2 million.
- Nicholas and Company was one of Australia’s first multinational companies and, as a result of innovative marketing and promotion during the 1920s, Aspro spread into the international marketplace. In the 1940s the company diversified and started producing vitamin supplements, pharmaceuticals and veterinary goods. Nicholas and Company merged with Kiwi in 1981, but during the 1980s Nicholas-Kiwi was progressively acquired by US multinational Sara Lee. George and his brother Alfred, who established the company, were noted for their philanthropy.
- Documentary filmmaker Curtis Levy was drawn to make a film about Hephzibah Menuhin because of the close friendship between the pianist and his mother, and was inspired by Hephzibah’s passion for politics while he was growing up. Through the use of archival footage, home movies, interviews with friends and family, and letters written by Hephzibah that detail her disintegrating marriage, Levy creates a portrait of a complex woman. After making 'Hephzibah’ (1998), Levy directed 'High Noon in Jakarta’ (2001) and 'The President Versus David Hicks’ (2004), which received an Australian Film Institute Award for Best Documentary in 2004.
This clip starts approximately 4 minutes into the documentary.
The film switches between Yehudi Menuhin talking and old footage of Lindsay and Nola Nicholas on holiday. They appear as in a royal parade, throwing flowers to the crowd.
Yehudi Menuhin I suppose March 1938. It was Sunday afternoon, following a performance I gave at the Royal Albert Hall when Bernard Heinz, I think by then, Sir Bernard Heinz – brought two young – absolutely entrancing – people backstage. Lindsay, with his red hair, exuberant and loving, adoring music. You know, Lindsay’s favourite pastime was conducting symphonies from the gramophone and his sister, Nola, who, equally red-haired, was in her blossoming youth and really brought, um, a totally new, ah, world with them.
Classical music plays over footage of Lindsay and Nola Nicholas at a party. They are dressed in evening wear. Lindsay, smoking a cigarette, winks at the camera. Nola sips champagne and dances, twirling in front of the camera.
Intertitle: Heirs to the Australian Aspro fortune, Lindsay and Nola Nicholas, were on holiday in Europe.
Yehudi We both fell for it. I married Nola within two months, I think, in May, May 26, if I’m not mistaken. And Hephzibah, a few months later on our lawn at my parents’ house Los Gatos.
A black-and-white photo shows Hephzibah and Lindsay getting married.
Shirley Nicholas is being interviewed.
Shirley Nicholas, Lindsay’s stepmother Yes, well, she rang up one night. It was May 6, I remember very clearly. And she said, 'I want to marry Lindsay, Shirley.’ Just like that. And I said, 'Oh, do you? Have you asked him?’. And she said, 'No. But’, she said, 'I’m going to.’ So I said, 'When?’. She said, 'As soon as the sun rises.’ She said, 'I’ll ring him up and ask him.’ And it was all finished as far as she was concerned. I said, 'Did you know he has a girlfriend in Australia?’. She said, 'No.’ And I said, 'Well, he has. A girlfriend called Joan Ramsay.’ I thought I’d better spill the beans. 'And he might still be very fond of her.’ And she said, 'Oh, I can cope with that.’