Posted by: Frederick Cornwell Sanders | 2013/11/20

“November 20, 1937” by Rick Sanders

English: Ruth Laredo

English: Ruth Laredo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1937, Ruth Laredo, the American pianist is born. She lives until 2005. From Wikipedia we read about her recordings. There are many and some are in reissue.

In 1967 Ruth Laredo recorded a well received album of piano music by French composer Maurice Ravel, also renowned for music full of pianistic challenges.

In 1970 Laredo made her famous premiere recordings of Scriabin’s 10 sonatas on three LPs for Connoisseur Society (reissued in 1984 by Nonesuch Records on a three-LP box and in 1996 on a double CD). She made the recordings in St. Paul’s Chapel at Columbia University, New York City, on a Baldwin SD-10 grand piano. The Scriabin LPs were released in a period where little of Scriabin’s music was available, and Laredo’s recordings led to his rising popularity in the USA. “I was kind of a crusader for his music,” said Laredo.[7]:112

From 1974 to 1981 followed Rachmaninoff‘s complete solo piano works on seven LPs for CBS Masterworks (reissued in 1993 by Sony Classical on five CDs), a project no pianist before had ever dared to undertake (at the same time the German-American pianist Michael Ponti also recorded the Scriabin and Rachmaninoff works). At this time she was a relative rarity as a female piano soloist, particularly in the technically demanding and muscular works of Rachmaninoff. There were only a few others – Gina Bachauer, Myra Hess and later Alicia de Larrocha, for example. The New York Daily News baptised her now “America’s First Lady of the Piano”, an appellation which was later used by many others. Laredo initially disliked this as she felt it was sexist: she wanted to be known as a pianist, not a “woman pianist”[16] Later she relented and used the title herself in her book and on her website.

The preparations for the recording of Rachmaninoff’s solo piano works proved to be very exhausting. Laredo said she now understood why some of the pieces had never been played by anybody: it was simply because they were so hard.[11] Rachmaninoff, who was 6’4″ tall with correspondingly large hands, had composed many of his works for himself. One could only wonder how the tiny 5’1″ Laredo was able to play Rachmaninoff’s pieces, some of which indulged in 11-key stretches. After practicing the music of “Rocky”, as she called Rachmaninoff, she had to get her hands massaged.[17]

Ruth Laredo also recorded more than 20 albums featuring works of other composers, among them Isaac Albéniz, Bach, Beethoven, Lili Boulanger, Brahms, Chopin, Falla, Debussy, Khachaturian, Fauré, Mozart, Poulenc, Ravel, Clara and Robert Schumann, Tchaikovsky as well as of the American composers Barber, Aaron Copland, Ives, Laderman, Kirchner, Rorem and Siegmeister. Especially acclaimed was the recording with James Tocco of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring in the version for two pianos for Gasparo Records.

Laredo made her last recordings in 1999 with the Shanghai Quartet, who called her “the fifth member of the Shanghai Quartet” for Arabesque Records (piano quartets by Brahms) and at the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival with the violinist Philip Setzer for Newport Classic (“Day Music” by Ned Rorem; the CD contains also Norem’s “War Scenes” and “End of Summer” performed by other artists including the composer at the piano). Both CDs were released in 2000.

Probably the last radio program was the one with jazz pianist Marian McPartland for National Public Radio. The date was February 19, 2004.


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