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August, 2001
Editorial Musings
Getting Thru Life's Trials
Julia Gorenman, Idil Biret and Ruth Laredo reveal
the difficult times in their lives

by Rose Eide-Altman , editor

Have you heard the saying: "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!"? That may be easier to do for some people than for others, but weíve all had trying times which may have tempted us to give up our dreams and goals. This monthís editorial focuses on difficulties in the lives of three outstanding concert pianists with the wish that these amazing stories will encourage you when you feel like you have been handed more than your share of lemons.

It was reading the new article last month about Maryla Jonas , and her overwhelming difficulties during and after World War II, that prompted me to share with you other stories that I have found in websites featured in "Women at the Piano". Last year, as I was browsing through Julia Gorenmanís site, I read an interview of her by Stephen Wigler of the Baltmore Sun from 1995 entitled "In U.S., pianist found Ďchance to succeedí . In it Yuliya tells a fascinating story of her difficulties and discrimination as a teenage piano student in Russia and her eventual departure in 1989. Because of the circumstances her parents left with her and they had to make their way through Europe with only a total of $400, all they were allowed to take out of the country. Eventually her abundant talent found her with a full scholarship to the San Fransisco Conservatory of Music and later lessons with Leon Fleisher. In 1995 she was an award winner at the Queen Elizabeth Competition in Brussels and she continues to perform world-wide.

On Idil Biretís site there is an insightful article about some of this world-renown pianistís recording difficulties. "The Making of the Beethoven-Liszt Symphonies" tells of her initial recording and performing of the Liszt transcriptions of all nine of Beethovenís symphonies. It was met with great acclaim and she was promised publication on an international level, but that never transpired. She has since then made over thirty recordings with NAXOS but even that has restricted her performing career in major venues. She now has the rights to the Liszt transcriptions and visitors to her site have access to them.

Last but not least, Ruth Laredo , one of the world's top performers, was interviewed by Cheryl Branham in 1994 and spoke frankly about her darkest days after her divorce, in 1974 at age 37, with a four-year-old daughter. She had married Jaime Laredo right after graduating from Curtis in 1960, at 22 years old, but she says that it wasnít until she recorded the Scriabin sonatas, in 1969, soon after her daughter was born, that she became known as a solo performer. (She mentions, by the way, that at the time of the Scriabin recording project Jaimeís parents lived right next door and were able to help with the child care). Below is an exerpt from Dr. Branham's interview:

Branham: Could you talk about dark days?
Laredo: There certainly were black days, black years, starting with 1974. I felt as if I were on a desert island, virtually alone. What saved me was the necessity of caring for my daughter. I did not know how I was going to be able to earn a living, and I had no idea whether my reputation was strong enough to create a career.

In 1973, Columbia Records asked if I would do this gigantic Rachmaninoff project, and I said yes. (Ruth Laredo was the first pianist ever to record the complete solo works of Rachmaninoff). That was very good luck. That really saved my life because I had to prepare the complete works of Rachmaninoff - seven records of music I didnít yet know. That was the beginning of a long quest out of my dark days. I threw myself into my work, made sure my daughter was OK, and kept going.

Later Branham asks her: How do you measure success?
Laredo: Success is often in the eye of the beholder. Music is a lifetime project, a lifeís work. Itís not a matter of being a success because thatís a static term. I am grateful that Iíve been able to earn my living as a musician. Iím very pleased that Iíve been able to do that for so many years.

Branham: Were there surprises, shifts, adjustments?
Laredo: I never in my wildest dreams believed I would be where I am right now. I never expected to be divorced - that was the biggest surprise. I never expected to raise my daughter alone, but having raised her is truly the greatest achievement of my life. Iím so proud of her.

published August 1, 2001
copyright 2001 PianoWomen.com


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