At 97: New album by the “Wunderkind” pianist

The album entitled “My Life in Music” was recorded by Decca last year. Slenczynska plays music by Sergej Rachmaninoff and Frederic Chopin on it, as the BBC reported on Friday. The album by Slencynska, who turns 97 on Saturday, will be released on March 18. The pianist has been performing since the 1920s. At that time, some newspapers called her one of the greatest child prodigies since Mozart. Their concerts are “an electrifying experience”, wrote the “New York Times” after one of the early concerts.

Slencynska made her debut in Berlin when she was six and in Paris when she was seven. She is considered the last living student of Rachmaninoff and often wears a Faberge choker given to her by the composer, according to the BBC.

Played at Kennedy’s inauguration

The pianist performed a four-hand duet with then-US President Harry S. Truman and performed at President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration ceremony. She was recognized by President Ronald Reagan as the first American woman to celebrate a 50-year concert career.

She also played for then-first lady Michelle Obama and Emeritus of Japan Michiko, with whom she is also friends, according to Pianist Magazine.

rupture with father

Slenczynska’s childhood was anything but easy. Her father, himself a well-known Polish violinist and head of the Warsaw Music Conservatory, was wounded in World War I. He emigrated to California and there concentrated on making his daughter a star musician.

By the age of three she was well versed in music theory and harmony. Her father forced her to an extremely strict practice schedule and many performances from a young age. She had to play nine hours a day, day in and day out, from infancy, as she herself stated in a 1957 autobiography. As soon as she played with other children, her father would come and force her to stop. He always rebuked her: “These are all childish things! you are not a baby you are a musician Stay away from these kids and their stupid games. It’s all a waste of time.”

The extreme stress led to her refusing the musical ordeal at the age of 15 and no longer performing. She later broke completely with her father and began studying psychology, but never stopped making music.

“You don’t serve champagne and beer at the same time”

From 1951 she performed again. She also had to accept a setback in her performances. She toured for four years with the Boston Pops Orchestra and conductor Arthur Fiedler. When, after a performance in Chicago, a newspaper praised her more than the conductor (“You don’t serve champagne and beer at the same time”), her engagement was not renewed, Slenczynska later recalled.

Records and textbook

Slenczynska subsequently recorded numerous records with Decca. According to the BBC, this particularly shows her sense of drama and rhythm, especially when she plays Chopin.

In 1961 the pianist also published a piano textbook: “Music at Your Fingertips: Aspects of Pianoforte Technique” which is still in print today. She later went to the University of Southern Illinois at Edwardsville. During the first CoV lockdown, she recorded Beethoven sonatas on the occasion of the composer’s 250th birthday and uploaded them to YouTube.

“Debut before first color films”

“It’s impressive when you think that Ruth made her concert debut before color films and around the invention of television,” say Decca record label bosses Laura Monks and Tom Lewis. “The fact that she is still at the top after nine decades” is simply extraordinary.

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