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Serkin, Rudolf

Serkin, Rudolf

Born in 1903


Inducted in 2000

Rudolf Serkin began to take piano lessons at age four, and made his first appearance playing piano in public at age five. When he was nine, Serkin moved to Vienna to study at their Conservatory. At 12, Serkin made his debut playing the Mendelssohn piano concerto with the Vienna Symphony. Serkin completed his musical studies in 1920 at age 17. Busch invited Serkin to tour with the Busch chamber players. His first appearance in Berlin was in 1920 with Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, Adolf Busch conducting. His first performance in the United States came in 1933 at a Coolidge Festival concert, but Serkin’s actual American debut as a concert pianist took place in New York in 1936, when Serkin played Beethoven’s Piano Concerto K.595 with the New York Philharmonic conducted by Arturo Toscanini. Just under a year later, Serkin played his first recital at Carnegie Hall. In 1939, Serkin joined the piano faculty at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where he became department head, and would teach for 36 years. From 1968 to 1975 Serkin served as the Institute’s director. President John F. Kennedy awarded Serkin the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963, and he received the Nation Medal of Art from President Ronald Reagan in 1988. He was awarded honorary membership in the New York Philharmonic in 1972 on the occasion of his 100th performance with the orchestra, and celebrated the 50th anniversary of his debut with the Philharmonic in 1986. Honorary doctorate degrees were awarded to Serkin by the Curtis Institute, Harvard University, Williams College, the University of Rochester, the New England, Marlboro College, Temple University, Oberlin College, and the University of Vermont. Serkin gave his last recital at Carnegie Hall in 1987 at the age of 84.