But for those of you who have not come across this name before, who is Ruth Slenczynska? She is now a 96-year-old American pianist (of Polish descent). Since her early childhood, she studied and/or received musical influences from no others but Josef Hofmann, Sergei Rachmaninov, Alfred Cortot, Marguerite Long, Egon Petri, and Artur Schnabel. Hearing about her for the first time in 2021 is definitely like traveling in time to a wonderful world that has now been long gone.
These recordings feature big Chopin cycles, such as his Etudes Op. 10 and Op. 25, the 24 Preludes Op. 28, the Four Ballades and Four Scherzos, waltzes, as well as pieces by many other composers. These span from encore pieces to other important features, such as Liszt‘s Grandes études de Paganini, Concerto No. 1 with Vienna Symphony, Spanish Rhapsody, or a remarkable version of Feux Follet, which drew the attention of Vladimir Horowitz and made him ask for a meeting with her, which evolved into a beautiful friendship.
Luckily, there are many sources available, thanks to which we can learn more about the experiences of Ruth Slenczynska told through her unassuming and charming personality, such as this interview for Eloquence about her very early studies at Curtis with Josef Hofman and Isabelle Vengerova, with classmates such as Jorge Bolet, Shura Cherkassky, and Samuel Barber, mentioning details about the creation of his famous Adagio for Strings:
This interview with Shelly Moorman-Stahlman about playing four hands with President Truman, Empress Michiko of Japan, and other encounters with US Presidents:
Interview with Shelly Moorman-Stahlman mentioning her study years in Paris: