Ruth Laredo, Pianist Who Recorded Rachmaninoff, Dies at 67
By DANIEL J. WAKIN
Published: May 27, 2005
Copyright 2005 The New York Times
Ruth Laredo, a pianist equally at home in chamber music and solo
works who was known for landmark recordings of Scriabin and
Rachmaninoff, died on Wednesday at her apartment in New York.
She was 67.
Ms. Laredo, who played her last concert on May 6 at the Metropolitan
Museum of Art, had cancer and died in her sleep, said her manager,
The concert was one of a series she had given for 17 years at
the Met called "Concerts With Commentary," in which Ms. Laredo
played and spoke engagingly about music. The series had become
an important part of the New York concert scene, where she was
a frequent presence.
Just two days after the attack on the World Trade Center, Ms.
Laredo celebrated the 25th anniversary of her Alice Tully Hall
debut with a recital there. It was the opening concert of the
2001 Lincoln Center season, and Ms. Laredo addressed the audience
beforehand, saying: "It was important for me to play. Great music
gives us spiritual sustenance and gives us hope. It is in that
spirit that I play tonight."
Ms. Laredo was a pianist in the Romantic mold, a dynamic performer
concerned with texture and color. In recent years, Mr. Murtha
said, her career as a soloist with orchestras had waned, but she
was comfortable with a mix of recitals, chamber concerts and
When she was first on the rise, in the 1970's, Ms. Laredo was a
relative rarity as a female piano soloist, particularly in the
technically demanding and muscular works of Rachmaninoff. There
were only a few others - Gina Bachauer, Myra Hess and later
Alicia de Larrocha, for example.
"Every time we did interviews in those early days, she was asked
how does it feel to be a woman pianist," Mr. Murtha said. "She
wanted to be a pianist, period."
Ruth Meckler was born in Detroit on Nov. 20, 1937. She attended
the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where she studied
with Rudolf Serkin. She graduated in 1960 and that same year
married the violinist Jaime Laredo, with whom she collaborated
musically. They later divorced. Ms. Laredo is survived by their
daughter, Jennifer Laredo, who lives in London with her husband,
the cellist Paul Watkins, and by a granddaughter.
Ms. Laredo made her debut with an orchestra in 1962, in a program
led by Leopold Stokowski conducting the American Symphony Orchestra
at Carnegie Hall. She made her debut with the New York Philharmonic,
conducted by Pierre Boulez, 12 years later. Her Carnegie Hall
solo recital debut came only in 1981.
At Curtis, Serkin schooled her in the basics of Mozart and
Beethoven, turning a disapproving eye on her youthful love for
Rachmaninoff. But it was with his music, as well as that of his
fellow Russian Scriabin, that she made her mark.
In the 1970's she recorded two pioneering and acclaimed sets:
the entire Scriabin piano sonatas, for the now-defunct Connoisseur
label, and the complete solo repertory of Rachmaninoff, on seven
LP's for CBS Masterworks.
When Ms. Laredo went to Serkin to ask if he thought she could
handle the Rachmaninoff, he gave his blessing. " 'You must do
it' was the answer he gave me," Ms. Laredo said in a 1987 interview
with The New York Times.
But preparing for the recordings was a fearsome and wearing task.
"I had to learn the many, many Rachmaninoff pieces that no one
plays, and I found out why no one does," she said. "It's because
they're so hard." She later channeled her love for Rachmaninoff
into scholarship, preparing a new edition of his piano preludes
for the C. F. Peters music publisher.
The Scriabin LP's came when little of his music was available
on record, and they helped spark a surge of his popularity in
the United States. Ms. Laredo said that she first heard his
music at a concert of Vladimir Horowitz and was dazzled.
Bernard Holland, a Times music critic, wrote of her playing of
Scriabin's music: "Ms. Laredo's sensuous, beautifully controlled
playing caught its mad and slightly evil quality."