- Rudolf Serkin
Infobox musical artist
Name = Rudolf Serkin
Background = non_vocal_instrumentalist
March 28, 1903 Cheb(Eger), Bohemia
May 8, 1991(age 88) Guilford, Vermont, USA
Genre = Classical
Years_active = 1916-1988
Rudolf Serkin (
March 28, 1903– May 8, 1991) was a Bohemian-born pianist.
He was born in
Cheb(Eger), Bohemia(now Czech Republic) to a Russian-Jewish family. Hailed as a child prodigy, Serkin was sent to Viennaat the age of nine, where he studied piano with Richard Robertand, later, composition with Joseph Marxmaking his public debut with the Vienna Philharmonicat 12. From 1918 to 1920 he studied composition with Arnold Schoenbergand participated actively in Schoenberg's Society for the Private Performance of Music. He began a regular concert career in 1920, living in Berlinwith the German violinist Adolf Buschand his family, which included a then three-year-old daughter Irene, whom Serkin would marry 15 years later. Throughout the 1920s and early 1930s, Serkin performed throughout Europe both as soloist and with Busch and the Busch Quartet. With the rise of Hitler in Germany, Serkin and the Busches (who were not Jewish but who viewed the Nazis with disgust) left Berlin for Switzerland.
In 1933 Serkin made his first United States appearance at the
Coolidge Festivalin Washington, DC, where he performed with Adolf Busch. In 1936 he launched his solo concert career in the U. S. with the New York Philharmonicunder Arturo Toscanini. The critics raved, describing him as "an artist of unusual and impressive talents in possession of a crystalline technique, plenty of power, delicacy, and tonal purity." In 1937, Serkin played his first New Yorkrecital at Carnegie Hall.
Shortly after the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the Serkins and Busches emigrated to the United States, where Serkin taught several generations of pianists at the
Curtis Institute of Musicin Philadelphia. From 1968 to 1976 he served as the Institute's Director. He lived with his growing family first in New York, then in Philadelphia, as well as on a dairy farm in rural Guilford, Vermont. In 1951, Serkin and Adolf Busch founded the Marlboro Music School and Festivalnear Brattleboro, Vermontwith the goal of stimulating interest in and performance of chamber music in the United States. He made many recordings (primarily with Columbia) from the 1940s into the 1980s, including one at RCA Victorof Beethoven's "Piano Concerto No. 4" in 1944, with the NBC Symphony Orchestraconducted by Toscanini. Serkin admired the music of Max Reger, which he discovered while working with Adolf Busch. In 1959, he became the first pianist in the United States to record Reger's Piano Concerto, Opus 114, with Eugene Ormandyand the Philadelphia Orchestra.
Serkin was awarded the
Presidential Medal of Freedomin 1964 and in March, 1972 celebrated his 100th appearance with the New York Philharmonic by playing Johannes Brahms's "Piano Concerto No. 1". The orchestra and board of directors also named Serkin an honorary member of the New York Philharmonic-Symphony Society, a distinction also conferred on Aaron Copland, Igor Stravinsky, and Paul Hindemith. In 1986, he celebrated his 50th anniversary as a guest artist with the orchestra. He is also regarded as one of the primary interpreters of the music of Beethoven in the 20th century.
Revered as a musician's musician, a father figure to a legion of younger players who came to the Marlboro School and Festival, and a pianist of enormous musical integrity, he toured all over the world and continued his solo career and recording activities until illness prevented further work in 1989. He died of cancer, aged 88, at home on his Vermont farm.
He and Irene were the parents of seven children (one of whom died in infancy), including pianist
Peter Serkin. They also had fifteen grandchildren. Irene Busch Serkin died in 1998.
Awards and Recognitions
*A biography, "Rudolf Serkin: A Life", by Stephen Lehmann and Marion Faber was published in 2003.
* [http://my.dreamwiz.com/fischer/Serkin/serkin-e.htm Rudolf Serkin biography]
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