Peter Serkin (1947-2020)

Pianist Peter Serkin, scion of one of classical music’s most distinguished families of performers and a leading advocate of living composers, has died at 72.

The son of pianist Rudolf Serkin and grandson of violinist and string-quartet leader Adolf Busch, Peter Serkin grew up near Marlboro College in Vermont, home of the summer musicians’ camp and festival that his father and grandfather had founded in 1950.

The younger Serkin, who enrolled at Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music at the age of 11 and made his debut a year later, proved to be a reluctant heir to the Old World classical tradition, leaving the stage to immerse himself in the 1960s counterculture, then upon returning to concert performances making a regular practice of juxtaposing standard repertory with contemporary compositions.

He was a founder of Tashi, one of the most musically adventurous chamber ensembles of the 1970s. The group’s 1975 recording of Olivier Messiaen’s “Quartet for the End of Time” helped usher the piece into the standard chamber repertory. Serkin subsequently became a regular collaborator with a number of ensembles. He was last heard locally performing Brahms’ Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34, with the Dover Quartet in October 2018 at the University of Richmond.

An obituary by The New York Times’ Anthony Tommasini:

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