November 16, 2019

Impressive Rudolf Serkin

The first time that Tomoko was completely impressed with a performance was due to Rudolf Serkin.

Serkin was born on March 28, 1903, in Eger, Bohemia. He read music before he could read words, thanks to his singer father. Rudolf started his professional study at the age of nine, in Vienna, and debuted publicly there just three years later. Rudolf studied composition with Arnold Schoenberg starting in 1918, and began his professional concert career with violinist Adolf Busch’s ensemble in 1920.

In 1936 Serkin performed to great aplomb with the New York Philharmonic and Arturo Toscanini, and three years later Serkin and Busch’s family immigrated permanently to the United States. Serkin taught piano at Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music, and became the institute’s director. Adolf and Serkin also started the Marlboro (Vermont) Music School and Festival to promote chamber music in the U.S. Serkin was also known for his interpretation of Beethoven. Because of his work, including memorable recordings, Serkin received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963.

Serkin impressed Tomoko too. He came to Japan in the 1950s. Tomoko attended one of his concerts, able to pay for one of the cheapest seats. Tomoko listen to Schubert’s Opus 15 Wanderer Fantasy, and tears came to her eyes.  “It was the most gorgeous feeling in the whole world,” Tomoko remembers.  “Tears are the most valuable and authentic emotion.” Tomoko thought, “This is what an artist is supposed to do,” Tomoko shares her experience with her students. “His performance was perfect; beyond works, beyond the technical.” That’s what Tomoko wants for her students and herself.

Serkin’s inspiration continues.   

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