Ruth Slenczynska is the pianist believed to be Rachmaninov’s last living student. She began playing the piano at the age of 4. Impressive. She just released a new album on the Decca record label – at the age of 97. Even more impressive. My Life in Music is comprised of musical pieces she’s been playing for nine plus decades.
Clearly, even if you just hit the high notes of this amazing nonagenarian’s career, there are plenty. In the 1920s, when she began playing, she was referred to as one of the greatest child prodigies since Mozart. At six years old she made her debut in Berlin. Late, at age seven, she made her debut in Paris. Meanwhile, she still can be seen wearing a Faberge egg necklace that Rachmaninoff gave her.
Additionally, she played a four-handed Mozart duet with President Harry S. Truman. Later she performed at President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration. Then, President Ronald Reagan recognized her as the first American woman to celebrate a 50-year concert career.
Later she toured with the Boston Pops under conductor Arthur Fiedler. In 1957, Ruth wrote an autobiography, Forbidden Childhood, recounting her difficult childhood under a demanding musical father. Later, in 1974, she authored a piano textbook. And she recorded 10 albums for Decca.
Her concerts have been referred to as “an electrifying experience” by the New York Times. According to Dominic Fyfe, label director of Decca Classics, “The fact that she is still at the top of her game over nine decades later is extraordinary. It’s very hard to think of anyone, in any profession, who has achieved such a sustained period of excellence.”
Actually, her entire life sounds like it’s been “an electrifying experience.” Ruth has been doing what she loves for almost a century – and by all accounts is only getting better with age. That’s called living at 100% for 100 years!