Former child prodigy pianist to release album marking 97th birthday

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  • Ruth Slenczynska
    American musician
  • Sergei Rachmaninoff
    Russian composer, pianist, and conductor (1873-1943)

Former child prodigy pianist Ruth Slenczynska is to celebrate her 97th birthday with an album recorded for the Decca record label.

The American musician, who has performed for figures such as US President Ronald Reagan, Michelle Obama and former Japanese Empress Michiko, has re-signed to the label after more than six decades.

Recorded last year, My Life In Music will celebrate Slenczynska’s long career, which began in the 1920s when she made her concert debut aged four, through a series of solo piano pieces.

Ruth Slenczynska as a child (Associated Press)
Ruth Slenczynska as a child (Associated Press)

She said: “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.”

Slenczynska, who turns 97 on Saturday, recorded for the Decca Gold label in the 50s and 60s and her new album will arrive on Decca Classics in March.

Born in 1925 in Sacramento, California, to Polish immigrants, Slenczynska performed on TV aged five and made her European concert debut in Berlin aged six.

She once played a duet with US President Harry S Truman and is considered the last living pupil of Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff, often wearing a Faberge egg necklace he gave to her.

My Life In Music (Decca Classics/PA)
My Life In Music (Decca Classics/PA)

The new album will feature music by Rachmaninoff, as well as American composer Samuel Barber, who was her fellow student and friend, and Frederic Chopin.

Slenczynska continues to perform and will celebrate her 97th birthday with a recital at Lebanon Valley College, Pennsylvania, on February 6.

Laura Monks and Tom Lewis, co-presidents of the 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, added: “We are privileged to have Ruth record for Decca again, some 66 years since she first recorded for the label in New York.

“One of her earliest producers was Thomas Frost and we were delighted to unite her with Thomas’ son David, the multi Grammy award-winning producer, for this new album.”

My Life In Music is released on March 18.

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