Ruth Laredo (November 20, 1937 – May 25, 2005) was an American classical pianist. She became known in the 1970s in particular for her premiere recordings of the 10 sonatas of Scriabin and the complete solo piano works of Rachmaninoff, for her Ravel recordings and in the last 16½ years before her death for her series in the Metropolitan Museum of Art “Concerts with Commentary”. She was often referred to as “America's First Lady of the Piano”.
She was born Ruth Meckler on November 20 1937 in Detroit. As a two-year-old she was able to pick out God Bless America on a piano belonging to her mother, Miriam. At the age of eight she was taken to hear Vladimir Horowitz, and vowed then to become a professional pianist.
Although considered a prodigy, she went through normal schooling and had a local teacher in Detroit, Mischa Kottler, from Russia, whose greatest words of praise were: "Not too bad, Ruthie."
Her early concerts were given for the Music Club of Metropolitan Detroit. She later studied with Rudolf Serkin at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. Her New York concerto debut was at Carnegie Hall with Leopold Stokowski and the American Symphony Orchestra in 1962.
Between 1974 and 1979 Laredo recorded all Rachmaninov's solo piano music for Columbia, the first pianist to do so. Earlier she had had recorded all of Scriabin's solo output for the little-known Connoisseur label. It was this, she said, that caused people to sit up and take notice of her. "Scriabin put me on the map," she recalled.
Her life took a more scholarly turn in 1981 when she was asked to prepare a new edition of Rachmaninov's solo piano music for Peter's Edition.
Here's Chopins Minute Waltz from above album
On stage Ruth Laredo preferred to wear simple chiffons and silks, avoiding long sleeves or heavy beading, rather than those with elaborate flourishes. She adored high-heeled shoes that sparkle, and was often the subject of fashion articles in the American press.
She jogged daily, accompanied by the sound of Phil Collins and Genesis, and was the owner of a bracelet of peacock-blue enamel on gold with seed pearls centred in a floral design that had once belonged to Clara Schumann. It had been given to Ruth Laredo by the mother of a man to whom she was once engaged.
In the last three or four years Ruth Laredo had taken to crossover music, playing alongside jazz artists such as Marian McPartland and Dick Hyman, the three of them sometimes playing a set each, and sometimes sitting at two or three keyboards together. She appears briefly in the Woody Allen film Small Time Crooks (2000), performing at the concert attended by Hugh Grant and Tracey Ullman.
Ruth was the first pianist to perform at the Lincoln Center in New York after the tragic events of September 11 2001. The concert had originally been billed as a celebration of the 25th anniversary of her debut recital at Alice Tully Hall, but inevitably - two days after the destruction of the twin towers of the World Trade Centre - the event took on an entirely different meaning.
Outside, on the Lincoln Center plaza, an informal group gathered around the fountain for a patriotic rendition of America the Beautiful. Inside, Ruth Laredo introduced her performance to a nervous audience. "Great music gives us spiritual sustenance and gives us hope. It is in that spirit that I play tonight," she announced before sitting down to play a concert packed with emotional intensity.
Ruth Laredo died in New York on May 25, 2005, three weeks after her last concert, which had been at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
In 1960 she married the violinist Jamie Laredo, with whom she made some of her early recordings. They were divorced in 1976. Ruth Laredo is survived by her daughter, Jennifer, who is married to the British cellist Paul Watkins. (Info mainly from the telegraph.co.uk)