American Music Heroes: Ruth Slenczynska
American pianist Ruth Slenczynska was born in California in 1925.
If you think Mama Rose in Gyspy was bad, it appears that young Ruth had the stage father from hell.
Mr. Slenczynska thought nothing of driving a three-year-old to distraction with hours of practice at the keyboard. Ruth made her concert debut at the age of six. The following year she began a series of international tours. Critics called her the greatest child prodigy since Mozart.
In this brief interview, Ruth begins by discussing her friend, violinist Ruggero Ricci, and describes both of their hovering fathers:
Ruth Slenczynska’s autobiography Forbidden Childhood was published in 1957. Musicians autobiographies tend to be self serving – they’re like long and dull press releases – but not this one. It’s sad and harrowing and redemptive. (Read this book before you sign your kid up for music lessons.)
Ruth’s fame was such that she was one of the very few ‘classical music’ artists to appear on This is Your Life - a hugely popular radio and later TV program.
The pace and the pressure caused an early burnout. Ruth left the stage as soon as she could. Eventually she joined the faculty at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville and remained there until 1987.
Ruth Slenczynska eventually resumed her concert career. The record label Ivory Classics is re-issuing her recordings. The years took nothing from her gifts:
Ruth Slenczynska, an American artist who not only survived but managed to thrive. She is worth knowing better.
Next: Richard Bonelli