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Rudolf Serkin (Eger, Bohemia, today in the Czech Republic, March 28, 1903 – Guildford, Vermont, United States, May 8, 1991) was an Austrian American nationalist pianist. < / p>
He was born in a Jewish family of Russian origin. When Serkin was nine years old, his family moved to Vienna, where he began his musical studies. His extraordinary talent caused him to be considered a child prodigy and to debut with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in 1915, aged twelve. However, his real professional career did not begin until 1920, after rigorous piano studies with Richard Robert and composition with Joseph Marx and Arnold Schönberg.
Serkin and Adolf Busch at the Conservatory of Brussels in 1935. Drawing by Hilda Wiener.
Meeting with Adolf Busch
In 1920, at age 17 he met the violinist Adolf Busch, with whom he would establish an intense human and artistic relationship. He moved to Berlin with Busch and his family (his daughter Irene, then 3 years old, will become Serkin’s wife 15 years later). Busch had created a chamber ensemble (the Busch Quartet) with which he disseminated German music and with which important soloists such as Marcel Moyse, Aubrey Brain or Reginald Kell played. During the decade of the 30s Serkin will record with this group works by Beethoven, Bach and Schubert in the studios of Abbey Road in London. These recordings are a record treasure for their pioneering character and for their prodigious artistic quality ..
In 1933, the Nazi leader Hermann Goering proposes him important positions, although as a Jew Serkin should renounce public concerts. Serkin decides to go into exile and Adolf Busch, Aryan without fault, follows the same path. They settle first in Vienna and then in Switzerland. Serkin moved to the United States in 1939, where he had already played with great success. His first concert in that country had been given at the Coolidge Festival in Washington in 1933 and in 1934 he had already played with Arturo Toscanini and the Philharmonic Orchestra of New York; His first recital at Carnegie Hall was in 1937.
Since 1939 he will be a piano teacher at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, of which he will also be director between 1968 and 1977.
In 1950, he was invited by Pablo Casals to play in the first edition of the Prades Festival. Casals and Serkin shared the same enthusiasm for chamber music and were formidable pedagogues and interpreters who transmitted their enthusiasm to young people in this festival and also in Marlboro.
After his interpretation of the Mozart piano concerto integral with the London Symphony Orchestra and Claudio Abbado, he collaborated with this director in a foundation to obtain instruments for young performers.
Sick of cancer, he retired from concerts in 1988. Father of 6 children (one of whom died as a child) among which the pianist Peter Serkin has achieved fame. He remained active until his death in 1991, when he was 88 years old.
Irene Busch Serkin, Rudolf’s wife, died in 1998.
Rudolf Serkin has been considered one of the most important pianists of the 20th century, and his performances of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert stand out. In the case of Beethoven his favorite piece was the Hammerklavier (sonata No. 29) that played a lot before the audience. His interpretive approach, supported by a great technique, was of great clarity, brilliance and expressiveness.
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