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

Arts and Entertainment
books
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
News
i100
News
The Digicub app, for young fans
advertisingNSPCC 'extremely concerned'
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
peopleAlice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, RSPSS, R, AI, CPLEX, SQL)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Law Costs

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - This is a very unusual law c...

Junior VB.NET Application Developer (ASP.NET, SQL, Graduate)

£28000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior VB.NET ...

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model of a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution