From prodigy to living legend

Legendary pianist Ruth Slenczynska celebrated her 97th birthday with a new record deal

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KEY-PING ON: Former child piano prodigy Ruth Slenczynska has signed a new record deal at the age of 97.

KEY-PING ON: Former child piano prodigy Ruth Slenczynska has signed a new record deal at the age of 97.

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Whoever heard of a pianist my age making another album?

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How does a 97-year-old pianist celebrate her birthday? By signing a major record deal - of course.

Decca Classics in conjunction with Universal Music Australia announced the re-signing of legendary pianist Ruth Slenczynska who has just celebrated her 97th birthday.

Having recorded for the Decca Gold Label in the 1950s and 60s, Ruth is thrilled to return to the label nearly 60 years later to release a brand new solo piano album, recorded in 2021, entitled My Life in Music. The album celebrates her remarkable life and performing career which began as a child prodigy in the 1920s and continues nine decades later.

The announcement of her re-signing to Decca has generated unprecedented news coverage around the globe by television, radio, print and online media, in countries ranging from England to India, Austria to Canada.

"Unbelievable! Whoever heard of a pianist my age making another album? I'm grateful if they like the music. Music is meant to bring joy. If mine still brings joy to people, then it is doing what it is supposed to do," she said.

Global interest in Ruth's remarkable career and longevity re-emerged following the appearance of a 10-CD set of her Complete American Decca Recordings on the Australian-based label Eloquence Classics in 2020.

Executive Producer of the set, Cyrus Meher-Homji OAM, said: "Universal Music Australia is proud to be associated with Decca for the release of Ruth's new album, recorded at age 96. Ruth's story is inspirational - a domineering parent, enormous success as a child pianist, a career that saw her perform for most of the American presidents, also playing duets with one of them, the last living pianist who had lessons with Rachmaninoff. She is living proof of how keeping mentally active and fit, curious and dedicated, enables one to be so in control of one's faculties, playing recitals at the age of 97. We are delighted to welcome Ruth back to the Universal family and wish her a very happy birthday."

Born in 1925 in Sacramento, California, to Polish immigrants, Ruth gave her concert debut at the age of four just as the world entered the Great Depression, performed on television aged five and at six made her European concert debut in Berlin. 92 years later, the extraordinary pianist still performs to audiences around the world.

As a child, Ruth as taught by some of the most celebrated pianists in history. She is the last living pupil of the great Russian composer-pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff, and even stepped in for him at the last minute when he was unable to perform due to an injury. The pair would often drink tea together and, to this day, Ruth wears a Fabergé egg necklace the great musician gifted to her.

My Life in Music is inspired by Ruth's personal connections with Rachmaninoff, as well as American composer Samuel Barber, who was her fellow student and friend. She heard Barber's now world-famous Adagio for Strings in the classroom, before it even had its title.

Ruth also explores the music of Chopin throughout the new album, including a piece she performed at the memorial service of one of the greatest pianists of all time, Vladimir Horowitz, a lifelong friend. Chopin's music formed Slenczynska's musical foundations, with her father (who brutalised her as a child) making her play all 24 Études before breakfast every morning.

Ruth went on to earn a reputation as one of the most celebrated Chopin interpreters. The album also features pieces by Debussy, Grieg and Bach which, for her, conjure memories of some of her great piano mentors: Egon Petri, Alfred Cortot and Josef Hoffman.

A phenomenal performing career has seen Ruth appear at some of the most prestigious concert halls around the world, as well as for the likes of President Reagan, President Kennedy, President Carter and Michelle Obama, and has even played duets with President Truman and the (now former) Empress Michiko of Japan (with whom she is friends). She has also written extensively with many articles published and two books to her credit.

Still an active performer, Ruth performed at the 2021 Chopin International Festival and Friends in October 2021 in the Polish Embassy in in New York and is set to celebrate her 97th birthday with a recital on February 6.

Laura Monks and Tom Lewis, Co-Presidents of Decca Label Group, said: "It's remarkable to think that Ruth made her concert debut before the birth of colour movies, and around the same time as the birth of television! 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."

Label Director of Decca Classics, Dominic Fyfe, said: "We are privileged to have Ruth record for Decca again, some 66 years since she first recorded for the label in New York. Decca has a long-cherished history of bringing great pianists back to the studio, from Shura Cherkassky to Jorge Bolet. Ruth was friends with them both and her pianism is one of the last living links to that golden era".

My Life in Music is out on Decca Classics in conjunction with Universal Music Australia on March 18. For more information click HERE

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