STREAM NOW: Remembering Peter Serkin (1947 – 2020)

Photo credit: Lincoln Russell

Join Stephen Wilson for a special 90-minute program showcasing the work of American pianist Peter Serkin, who was noted for his performances of classical and contemporary works.

We were thrilled to discover Fine Music presenter Julie Simonds was Peter’s copyist/arranger for years! Julie transcribed many Bach, Mozart and other works from his hand scores to typesetting. Below are two samples of this in Peter’s original handwriting.

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A son of pianist Rudolf Serkin, Peter was a prodigy who by the age of 12 played concertos by W.A. Mozart and F.J. Haydn in concert with American orchestras. He attended the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia until 1965, then began his recording career by playing music of J.S. Bach and Franz Schubert. By 1969, he abandoned wearing formal attire at concerts and devoted his programs almost entirely to 20th-century composers, including Igor Stravinsky, Olivier Messaien, and the Arnold Schoenberg circle.

Serkin’s interests in non-Western philosophies and musical traditions led him to retire in the early 1970s, to travel at length through Asia and Morocco, then to live in Mexico. He returned to performing in 1973 and cofounded Tashi, a chamber group unique for its instrumentation (piano, clarinet, violin, cello) and for its repertoire, which was largely centred on contemporary composers. His public performances and recordings, infrequent in the 1970s, became frequent after 1980 in solo, chamber, and symphonic contexts, and, though he played classical and romantic works more frequently, he continued to premiere new works by living composers.


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