Serkin, Rudolf


Celebrated pianist, co-founder of the Marlboro Music School and Festival in 1951


Autograph ID: 1002
Condition: Good, light toning at edges
Description: Rudolf Serkin (1903-1991) Bohemian born Jewish-American pianist widely regarded pianist as one of the greatest 20th century interpreters of Beethoven.

Hailed as a child prodigy, he was sent to Vienna at 9 to study piano with Richard Robert and, later, composition with Joseph Marx, making his public debut with the Vienna Philharmonic at 12. He studied composition with Arnold Schoenberg 1918-20 and participated in Schoenberg’s Society for the Private Performance of Music.

He began a regular concert career in 1920, living in Berlin with German violinist Adolf Busch and married his daughter Irene 15 years later. In 1921, at 17, he made his Berlin debut performing in Busch’s ensemble as keyboard soloist in the Brandenburg Concerto No. 5. At the end of the concert, Busch told Serkin to play an encore to the enthusiastic audience. Serkin later reported that he asked Busch, “What shall I play?” and Busch “as a joke” told him to play the Goldberg Variations. As Serkin later related: “When I finished there were only four people left: Adolf Busch, Artur Schnabel, Alfred Einstein and me.”  In the 1920s-early 30s, Serkin performed throughout Europe both as soloist and with Busch and the Busch Quartet. With Hitler’s rise in Germany in 1933, Serkin and the Busches (not Jewish but vehemently opposed to the Nazi regime) left Berlin for Switzerland. In 1933, Serkin made his 1st US appearance at the Coolidge Festival in Washington, performing with Busch. In 1936, he launched his solo concert career in the US with the New York Philharmonic under Toscanini to critical raves. In 1937, Serkin played his 1st New York City recital at Carnegie Hall.

After the outbreak of WW II in 1939, the Serkins and Busches left for the US where Serkin taught several generations of pianists at Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music, its director 1968-76. In 1951, Serkin and Adolf Busch founded the Marlboro Music School and Festival in Marlboro, Vermont, with the goal of stimulating US interest in and performance of chamber music. He made numerous recordings from the 1940s-80s including one at RCA Victor of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 in 1944 with the NBC Symphony Orchestra under Toscanini. In 1959, he became the 1st pianist in the US to record Max Reger’s Piano Concerto, Op. 114, with Ormandy and The Philadelphia Orchestra.

Serkin was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963 and in March 1972 celebrated his 100th appearance with the New York Philharmonic; the orchestra and board of directors named him an honorary member of the New York Philharmonic-Symphony Society, a distinction also conferred on Copland, Stravinsky and Hindemith. He is regarded as one of the primary interpreters of the music of Beethoven in the 20th century. He received Kennedy Center Honors in 1981.

Signed 5 1/4 x 4 1/2 light green autograph album page, in red ink, adds May 20, 1962 date.
Type: Signed album page

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