Friday, July 10, 2009

When Eddy Interviewed Ruth Slenczynska:

I think about Ruth Slenczynska every year. She was born in 1925 and (I believe) is still alive. In 1957, she was about as famous as she could get. She was recording and concertizing, and her (ghost-written?) autobiography, Forbidden Childhood, was much talked about. You can listen to some fragments of her marvelous playing here (but be sure to read the terms and conditions on that page; I have no idea whether they state the law accurately).
She had been an awesome child prodigy pianist, and she developed into a very mature pianist. The pressures of being a child prodigy got to her, and she did not perform between (according to Wikipedia) 1940 and 1954.

Her autobiography told the familiar story of a father driving her much too hard to succeed, and a family giving all its love to their other children while expecting her to practice and perform. For me, the most memorable anecdote in her book concerns her father's parsimoniousness: when the two of them traveled to her concerts, he always shared a hotel room with her. But one day the clerk listened to her father order a single room; and then the clerk said, "the young lady will require her own room." And after that she always had her own room.

I can't remember Eddy's last name. He was a friendly, middle-aged fellow with some knowledge of classical music, and he talked his way into running an interview show on one of New York's classical radio stations. My (pianist) aunt Lucy knew him and regarded Eddy as a bit of a confidence man. Of course, in 1957, there had to be an interview with Ruth Slenczynska. I believe her recording of all 24 of the Chopin Peludes Op. 28 had recently been issued to acclaim. In the interview, Eddy asked Ruth which prelude was her favorite. She replied that she had no favorite. Surely, he said, she must prefer one of them. She replied that they were her little children, and she was their mother. And like any parent, she loved them equally. Eddy could see where this was going, and he gently commented that a parent might prefer one child to another. "No," she said, "a parent always loves all the children the same."

Thinking most definitely of Slenczynska's autobiography -- most of his radio listeners were doing the same, I'm sure -- Eddy said, "I've heard of cases where a parent might love one child more than another." Ruth Slenczynska went right on denying that such a thing could ever happen, throwing the accuracy of her own book into doubt.

By the way, I'm older and wiser now, and I can see how Ruth Slenczynska could have ignored her own painful family experience while insisting that any mother will love her children all the same. What seemed embarrassing to me then, now seems poignant.

15 comments:

Lee said...

She is very much alive. I had lunch with her 2 weeks ago and she played a Chopin ballade in Zenkle Hall the week before.

The Precision Blogger said...

Lee, that's great news! Thanks.
-PB

Anonymous said...

Can I have chance to talk to her!!!
I really really hope I can find her..
please..........

Anonymous said...

And yes, she still is very much alive and well. I am a former student of hers and recently visited her in New York and had some lessons again. Her address is: 180 W. End Ave, New York, NY 10023. While I don't want to give out her phone number, I can't imagine that she would mind receiving a letter from someone interested in her life and her music. She was very gracious to one of my students who recently called her for more information on a class project.

sspeak said...

Madame Slenczynska is very much still performing. I just asked her permission to post her next performance, which will be in San Francisco on 12/11/10. She states: "My next performance in your area will be for Pacific Music Society at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco on Dec. 11th. I'll be playing some Brahms and Chopin on a program with many other participants because the whole thing is a charitable affair." The performance will be in the evening. Anyone interested in attending can contact the Pacific Music Society.

sspeak said...

Madame Slenczynska recently recorded the entire Brahms Op 117, 118, and 119, and it is finally available for purchase. She has instructed me to contact Jinye Wang on Maureen Way in Saratoga, Calif to obtain a copy, which I will do!

Anonymous said...

I have had the good fortune to study with Madame the past month. She continues to be an amazing pedagogue and performer. She is also one of the nicest people that I know.

Jenny said...

I used to study under her in Illinois and would love to reach out to her. I currently live in San Francisco and am heartbroken to have missed her performance out here. Could anyone please tell me how I can reach her?

Anonymous said...

Would love to find a copy of her book. My dad studied with her and she came to visit us in NC when I was 16 (I'm 50 now!)I played the Vitale Chaconne with her in our living room. I remember being struck by the power of her playing. She sent me note cards with a treble clef on them after....I still have them!What a kind and generous person!

Julia Tung said...

She is in Saratoga, Ca. right now.
You will find her by contacting :
Brahms Op 117, 118, and 119, and it is finally available for purchase. She has instructed me to contact Jinye Wang on Maureen Way in Saratoga, Calif to obtain a copy. She is very kind and lovely.

Anonymous said...

The "Eddy" to whom you refer was undoubtedly violinist Eddy Brown, Music Director of station WQXR in New York in that era.

The Precision Blogger said...

I'm quite sure it was NOT Eddy Brown. Eddy was kind of a confidence man who lived by his wits, with some background in classical music. To those who knew him, it was somewhat odd that he managed to get a radio program for himself, interviewing musicians.
-PB

Anonymous said...

I'm hosting Ruth Slenczynska at my college for a series of masterclasses and workshops on Feb. 2 and 3, 2013. I'm trying to contact all of her former students to invite them to send cards which I will present to her at the recital which will be given in her honor. My email is: moorman@lvc.edu

Anonymous said...

I saw Ruth Slenczynska in concert, I think in the late 1950's in Seattle, WA. One of the pieces she played was Schumann's Symphonic Etudes. I will never forget her and the effect her music had upon everyone in the audience. After she finished there was dead silence for at least a minute. People simply couldn't believe their ears. And then arose a roar of appreciation and thunderous applause that seemed to go on and on. I clapped until my hands were sore. She had transported me to another world, and I was transfixed beyond all words. I still remember how wonderful that feeling was--one of the absolute highlights of my life. I would love to tell her just how much that concert meant to me. Her performance filled my soul to overflowing. So if her NY address is still current, I would like to send her a thank you note. Please let me know if her address has changed.
Kathie Maas (78 yrs old)

The Precision Blogger said...

Kathie, I'm sorry, I do not know her address. -PB