Austrian-born musician Rudolf Serkin was a piano prodigy who toured the world and also founded the famous Marlboro Music Festival.
Serkin was born in 1903 to a Jewish family of Russian descent, and began advanced study of the piano at the Vienna Conservatory by the age of nine. He made his debut just three years later with the Vienna Philharmonic and then studied composition with Arnold Schoenberg. You can learn more about Schoenberg on prompt 137.
In 1920, Serkin moved to Berlin and began what would be a lifelong performance partnership with violinist Adolf Busch, who founded the Busch Quartet. The Busch Quartet toured throughout Europe and the United States for most of the 1920s and early 1930s.
By 1933 however, the situation in Germany was dire and Serkin, along with the other members of his Quartet, fled to Switzerland. By the late 1930s, Serkin emigrated to the United States where he performed with the New York Philharmonic under Arturo Toscanini. Listen to prompt 157 to learn about another composer Toscanini helped.
Serkin taught for many years at the Curtis Institute of Music, in Philadelphia. He mentored a whole generation of pianists while there. The Busch Quartet also continued to perform and record consistently through in the 1940s.
In 1951, Serkin and Busch founded the Marlboro Music School & Festival in Brattleboro, VT, with the hope of inspiring greater interest and learning in the area of chamber music. Serkin served as the Director of the school for a time, and would go on to receive a Presidential Medal of Freedom, having performed more than 100 times with the New York Philharmonic, over 50 years.
Rudolf Serkin died of cancer in 1991. With his wife Irene, Adolf Busch's daughter, he raised six children including famed pianist Peter Serkin.