At 99, Ruth Slenczynska embodies a living history of classical piano music. As the last surviving pupil of Sergei Rachmaninov, her fingers have not only danced over the keys under the watchful eye of the maestro himself but have continued to inspire and move audiences across the globe.
Born to Polish immigrants in California in 1925, Ruth Slenczynska was a child prodigy.
Slenczynska’s journey began with an esteemed mentorship that set her on a path of musical discovery and excellence that few can claim to have walked.
Her connection with Rachmaninov extended beyond the piano. Anecdotes of their tea-drinking sessions and the Fabergé egg necklace she wears, a gift from the composer, add a personal touch to her storied career. She also enjoyed a unique relationship with American composer Samuel Barber, previewing his iconic “Adagio for Strings” before it was even titled.
With a growing career, Slenczynska quickly became a musical sensation, enchanting audiences with her profound skill and emotive performances.
In a twist that demonstrated her resilience, Slenczynska stepped away from her illustrious performing career, only to return with renewed vigour following a divorce. This comeback was not merely a return to form but a declaration of her unyielding passion for music.
During the pandemic, Slenczynska turned to YouTube, sharing performances of Beethoven sonatas, celebrating the composer’s 250th anniversary, thereby connecting with a global audience in a new way.
Her recent performances, like the one at the Chopin International Festival in New York, continue to captivate listeners.
Her album, “My Life in Music,” delves into the works of Chopin, Debussy, Grieg, and Bach, paying homage to the influences of her mentors and her love for the piano. The album reflects a lifetime of experiences and her exceptional interpretation of these classical giants.
Ruth Slenczynska’s life, as chronicled in her memoir “Forbidden Childhood,” reveals a disciplined upbringing under her father Josef Slenczynski. Her mastery of Chopin’s Études, practiced before breakfast each day, has crowned her one of the foremost interpreters of his works.
On Monday, 15 January 2024, Slenczynska turned 99-years-old. She is not just a celebrated pianist but an emblem of musical perseverance.
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