Ruth Laredo

'America's First Lady of the piano'

Ruth Laredo was the kind of pianist who drew excited and colourful language from the critics. The New York Daily News baptised her "America's First Lady of the piano". The Washington Post found her pianism "marked with a special blend of intensity and rare kind of introspective poetry". The New York Times hailed her as a "technical wizard" who could "hold her own with any pianist alive".

Ruth Meckler, pianist: born Detroit 20 November 1937; married 1960 Jaime Laredo (one daughter; marriage dissolved 1974); died New York 25 May 2005.

Ruth Laredo was the kind of pianist who drew excited and colourful language from the critics. The New York Daily News baptised her "America's First Lady of the piano". The Washington Post found her pianism "marked with a special blend of intensity and rare kind of introspective poetry". The New York Times hailed her as a "technical wizard" who could "hold her own with any pianist alive".

Although her repertoire was broad, beginning with Beethoven and ranging into living composers, Laredo specialised in the kind of big-boned Romantic music that came alive with her forceful and lively keyboard manner. Inspired by the powerful virtuosity of Vladimir Horowitz's approach to Scriabin, whose music was then relatively little played, she attracted international attention in the 1970s with the first complete set of the 10 Scriabin piano sonatas for the Connoisseur label (one reviewer wrote that her "sensuous, beautifully controlled playing caught its mad and slightly evil quality").

And she received credit for what was later considered the first recording of the complete piano music of Rachmaninov, for CBS (in fact, Michael Ponti beat her to the draw), earning herself the first of three Grammy nominations. She tackled the complete Scriabin preludes, too.

Russian music continued to be a favourite stamping-ground: one of her most recent recordings was a two-piano disc for Gasparo, with James Tocco, of the two-piano version of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring and Rachmaninov's Second Suite. Her last concert, on 6 May - part of the "Concerts with Commentary" series she had presented at the Museum of Metropolitan Art in New York for the past 17 years - was one of three entitled "The Russian Spirit", featuring the music of Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Scriabin and Shostakovich.

She was born Ruth Meckler, a native of Detroit, and studied with Rudolf Serkin at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. He looked askance on her enthusiasm for Rachmaninov and made sure her pianism was grounded in classical mainstream. In 1960, the year of her graduation, she married the Bolivian violinist Jaime Laredo, forming a duo soon recognised as one of the finest in the profession; they were divorced in 1974.

Ruth Laredo's concerto début came in 1962, in Carnegie Hall, with the American Symphony Orchestra conducted by the veteran Leopold Stokowski - who always had an eye for pretty female soloists. But it was to be 12 years before she appeared with the New York Philharmonic, and 1981 before her first solo recital in Carnegie Hall. By that time her recordings had already made her one of America's best-known pianists.

Other concerto appearances took her to such orchestras as the Philadelphia, the Boston and Detroit Symphonies, and the Orchestra of St Luke's. She played at the White House and Library of Congress. Also an enthusiastic chamber musician, she performed regularly with the Tokyo String Quartet, her other partner quartets including the Emerson, Guarnieri, Muir, St Lawrence and Vermeer; her most recent recording, of the Brahms Piano Quartets (for Arabesque), featured the Shanghai String Quartet.

She may have reached her widest audience in the cinema, though. In a scene in Woody Allen's film Small Time Crooks (2000), Hugh Grant tries to impress Tracey Ullman by taking her to a piano recital - Ruth Laredo playing Rachmaninov.

Martin Anderson

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst- Insurance

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst - Insurance ...

Recruitment Genius: Property Manager

£25000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent, growing Sales...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Multi-skilled graphic designer ...

Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solicitor

£30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solic...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital