The greatness of Rudolf Serkin
Other pianists drew prettier sounds from the instrument. Many were more virtuosic and charismatic. Most of his peers played with more apparent ease. For adventurous repertoire, one turned elsewhere. But for the most profound engagement with the verities of the piano's solo, chamber and concerto repertoire — Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann, Schubert and Mozart — the 20th century gave us no greater pianist than the late Rudolf Serkin.
His colleagues and students speak of Mr. Serkin in almost worshipful tones. My late friend, violinist, violist, teacher and long-time Marlboro Festival participant Philipp Naegele, a very serious and demanding musician himself, told me frequently of Mr. Serkin's almost impossibly high standards and unimpeachable musical and personal integrity. As for Mr. Serkin's own performance legacy, it is perhaps put best by writer and teacher Jeremy Siepmann:
"Serkin was a musician, first last and always, for whom the piano was no more than a medium for the expression of the highest art. Musically speaking, he might aptly be described as a passionate puritan, who had little interest in the lighter side of the repertoire, and whose uncompromising search for artistic truth made no concessions whatever to his listeners. "
The complete article can be found here. And tune in to WFCR's classical music on Wednesday for three examples of Mr. Serkin's art, honoring the 109th anniversary of his birth: Beethoven's "Pathétique" Sonata (9:00 hour), Schubert's final Sonata in B-flat (recorded in Mr. Serkin's barn in Guilford, Vermont, 1:00 hour) and Schumann's Piano Concerto with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra (3:00 hour).