Holocaust survivor and harpsichordist dies 

Holocaust survivor and harpsichordist dies 

Czech harpsichordist Zuzana Ruzickova, a Holocaust survivor who became the first soloist to record Johann Sebastian Bach’s complete works for keyboard, has died aged 90.

She recorded Bach’s complete works for keyboard on 35 records from 1965 to 1975. The musician died in a Prague hospital after a short illness.

Born into a Jewish family in then-Czechoslovakia in 1927, Ruzickova said last December that her love of music helped her survive the Holocaust.

“I was not a strong child, but I was in love with music from the beginning,” Ruzickova told the BBC’.

As a Jew she had to stop studying music after the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia in 1939 and she was expelled from her grammar school.

In 1942, her family was jailed in the Czech town of Theresienstadt at Terezin labour camp, where her father died.

She was then sent to Auschwitz, then to carry out slave labour in Hamburg and later to Belsen.

After her liberation she first returned to Czechoslovakia to tend to her ailing mother. She then studied the harpsichord in Prague and Paris.

Her hands were badly damaged during the war but she said she practised the piano for 12 hours a day to make up for lost time.

She won a competition in Munich in 1956, although she struggled to perform and teach in Czechoslovakia, where the Communist authorities deemed the harpsichord a feudal and religious instrument.

Despite being under surveillance upon her return to Czechoslovakia, she was allowed by the regime to perform at competitions and concerts around the world because it provided a lucrative source of foreign currency for the impoverished state.

At concerts, she used to play a piece on the piano and then on the harpsichord.

Only in the 1980s did she persuade Prague’s Academy of Performing Arts to accept the harpsichord as a proper instrument.

“She was a woman with incredibly tough experiences and traumas suffered during the Holocaust. Fortunately, she survived and she was able to get over it,” music journalist Petr Veber was quoted saying by the Czech CTK news agency

A Czech Philharmonic soloist from 1979 to 1990, Ruzickova was in 2003 given the Order of Arts and Letters, one of France’s top cultural honours.

She married Czech composer Viktor Kalabis, who died aged 83 in 2006.

A record cover of Czech harpsichordist Zuzana Ruzickova. Picture credit: Flickr 

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.