Our person of the month for October 2004 is Dr. Ruth Slenczynska. Dr. Slenczynska, an internationally acclaimed concert pianist referred to as a “pianist of impeccable technique and considerable musical insight” is also well known as a professor of music. She spent twenty-three years as Artist-in-Residence at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, IL. Dr. Slenczynska came to our attention through a former student who had earned a Master’s Degree at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. He of course notes her innumerable list of accomplishments both in the United States and abroad. What really gathered our attention and earns Dr. Slenczynska the title of person-of-the month is the fact that she has acted as so much of an inspiration to the writer and so many others. The writer stated, “She continues to amaze and inspire me with her work as a pianist, and as an ambassador for the musical arts.” As a performer and a teacher, Dr. Slenczynska bridges the gap between artistry and passing artistry on for future generations. The balancing of her expertise and life’s story with the role of educator is deserving of commendation and should act as an example to all.
Dr. Slenczynska is officially retired and resides in New York City. She continues to perform, teach, and adjudicate throughout the world, and recently released a new CD, accompanied with performances in the Orient. All this as she nears her 80th birthday in January! Among her many honors, Dr. Slenczynska earned the Polish Golden Cross of Merit.
About Dr. Slenczynska:
Ruth Slenczynska was born in Sacramento, California on January 15, 1925. Her father, Joseph Slenczynski, a violinist, imposed a rigorous and disciplinary practice routine on her beginning at age three. She began her piano studies in Europe at age four and took lessons with Arthur Schanabel, Egon Petri, Alfred Cortot, Joseph Hofmann, and even performed for Sergei Rachmaninoff. She performed her debut in Berlin at age six, and made her debut in Paris with a full orchestra at age eleven. She became an instant musical sensation in Europe, heralded as the first child prodigy since Mozart.
Ruth Slenczynska is the first American woman pianist in history to celebrate 60 years of professional music making. Following her New York City debut at the age of eight, which Olin Downes of the New York Times called “an electrifying experience,” Slenczynska has performed more than 3,000 recitals on both hemispheres and appeared with most of the world’s greatest orchestras. She has been called “the greatest among women pianists today” by the London Times.
Dr. Slenczynska has crisscrossed the globe many times, performing concerts in Europe, South Africa, Asia, the United States and South America and her life story has been featured on many television programs as well as in many national magazines.
Dr. Slenczynska has an extensive discography including a dozen records for Decca Gold Label, three for Musical Heritage Society; and two current CD’s on Ivory Classics and ACA Digital.
Dr. Slenczynska has written two books, “Forbidden Childhood” which deals with life as a child prodigy, and a book on piano technique, “Music At Your Fingertips “(DaCapo Press). Her articles on a variety of musical subjects appear regularly in “Clavier”, “Piano Quarterly” and “Music journal.” Slenczynska is a popular adjudicator as well as workshop clinician and master class teacher.
In 1999, Ruth Slenczynska was the only woman as well as the only U.S. delegate to judge the Busoni and the Franz Liszt International Piano Competitions.
She was awarded the Golden Cross of Merit by the country of her ancestors, Poland and has been honored by several crowned heads in Europe and five United States presidents. She has received the Lifetime Achievement Awards fro Excellence in the Fine Arts from the Arts Education Council of St. Louis.
Among the many commentaries on her work, the following stand out:
“Phenomenal clarity and elegant playing from child prodigy, legendary pianist and virtuosa — Ruth Slenczynska”
“Piano playing in the grand tradition.”
“This disc is both timbrally assertive and interpretively strong minded. Slenczynska’s Chopin/Liszt is acerbic in accent, yet brightly colored and molded with a rhapsodic freedom that’s spellbinding.” Fanfare — Sept/Oct 1998
“She has a strong technique — the crispness of her articulation in the Bach pieces is especially notable. The sound is excellent, and Slenczynska’s musicianship makes the disc a pleasure to hear.” — American Record Guide – Sept/Oct 1998
“This release reminds us of Ruth Slenczynska’s rare combination of intellectual insight and emotional spontaneity. Her Bach playing (this recording dates from 1952) is far more dynamic than was the norm in the pre-Gould world.” — Fanfare Nov/Dec 1998
“Here is Bach without frills — the soulful, somber heart of the master conveyed by the simplest means.” — The Denver Post August 2, 1998
“These high-resolution remasterings only bring into focus what we’ve known all along; that compellingly “right” performances that were recorded right to begin with, will never grow old. Slenczynska’s Bach, Chopin and Liszt are as fresh today as they were then. Slenczynska’s Bach is superb. The Chopin/Liszt selections reveal Slenczynska’s further mastery. When was the last time we encountered a pianist whose Chopin and Liszt were equally persuasive?.” — Classical Disc Digest, 2000
“Born in 1925, Ruth Slenczynska gave her first recital in 1929 and made her New York debut at eight in 1933. She studied with the best, Hofmann, Vengerova, Cortot, Petri, Schnabel and Rachmaninov. She plays Bach with great authority and intellectual clarity and with unashamedly romantic interpretative values. Her sound is very clearly delineated and focused. The Chopin/Liszt Chants Polonais show Slenczynska as a pianist in the great romantic tradition.” — ICRC, Winter 1999