"America's First Lady of the Piano"
--NY Daily News
Ms. Laredo, who played her last concert on May 6 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, had cancer and died in her sleep, said her manager, James Murtha.
The concert was one of a series she had given for 17 years at the Met called "Concerts With Commentary," in which Ms. Laredo played and spoke engagingly about music. The series had become an important part of the New York concert scene, where she was a frequent presence.
Just two days after the attack on the World Trade Center, Ms. Laredo celebrated the 25th anniversary of her Alice Tully Hall debut with a recital there. It was the opening concert of the 2001 Lincoln Center season, and Ms. Laredo addressed the audience beforehand, saying: "It was important for me to play. Great music gives us spiritual sustenance and gives us hope. It is in that spirit that I play tonight."
Ms. Laredo was a pianist in the Romantic mold, a dynamic performer concerned with texture and color. In recent years, Mr. Murtha said, her career as a soloist with orchestras had waned, but she was comfortable with a mix of recitals, chamber concerts and accompanying duties.
When she was first on the rise, in the 1970's, Ms. Laredo 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.
"Every time we did interviews in those early days, she was asked how does it feel to be a woman pianist," Mr. Murtha said. "She wanted to be a pianist, period."
Ruth Meckler was born in Detroit on Nov. 20, 1937. She attended the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where she studied with Rudolf Serkin. She graduated in 1960 and that same year married the violinist Jaime Laredo, with whom she collaborated musically. They later divorced. Ms. Laredo is survived by their daughter, Jennifer Laredo, who lives in London with her husband, the cellist Paul Watkins, and by a granddaughter.
Ms. Laredo made her debut with an orchestra in 1962, in a program led by Leopold Stokowski conducting the American Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. She made her debut with the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Pierre Boulez, 12 years later. Her Carnegie Hall solo recital debut came only in 1981.
At Curtis, Serkin schooled her in the basics of Mozart and Beethoven, turning a disapproving eye on her youthful love for Rachmaninoff. But it was with his music, as well as that of his fellow Russian Scriabin, that she made her mark.
In the 1970's she recorded two pioneering and acclaimed sets: the entire Scriabin piano sonatas, for the now-defunct Connoisseur label, and the complete solo repertory of Rachmaninoff, on seven LP's for CBS Masterworks.
When Ms. Laredo went to Serkin to ask if he thought she could handle the Rachmaninoff, he gave his blessing. " 'You must do it' was the answer he gave me," Ms. Laredo said in a 1987 interview with The New York Times.
But preparing for the recordings was a fearsome and wearing task. "I had to learn the many, many Rachmaninoff pieces that no one plays, and I found out why no one does," she said. "It's because they're so hard." She later channeled her love for Rachmaninoff into scholarship, preparing a new edition of his piano preludes for the C. F. Peters music publisher.
The Scriabin LP's came when little of his music was available on record, and they helped spark a surge of his popularity in the United States. Ms. Laredo said that she first heard his music at a concert of Vladimir Horowitz and was dazzled.
Bernard Holland, a Times music critic, wrote of her playing of Scriabin's music: "Ms. Laredo's sensuous, beautifully controlled playing caught its mad and slightly evil quality."
By Daniel J. Wakin
Concert Pianist Ruth Laredo
at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City
(and throughout the U.S.)
This season featured the music of Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, Shostakovich, in a three-concert series titled "The Russian Spirit" with special guests Courtenay Budd, soprano and the St. Petersburg String Quartet.
Ruth Laredo recently took part in
Russian Festival "International Week"
Pianist summons perfect storm of music
"Ruth Laredo, known as 'America's First Lady of the Piano,' is gifted with steely fingers, prodigious technique, a passionate temperament and an affinity for dark and heavy music.
In her superb recital Wednesday night at the Cleveland Museum of Art, the renowned artist plunged into pieces by composers who pushed and expanded the expressive powers of the piano. Shrewdly balancing familiar and lesser-known works, she played with ringing tone, intense presence and innate musicianship."
--The Plain Dealer, Cleveland 4/17/04
Three Piano Crossover
Ruth Laredo teams up with Dick Hyman and Marian McPartland for this refreshing program which explores the boundaries between Classical Music and Jazz.
Tel: (212) 967-7350
Fax: (212) 967-7341
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