Rudi, la leçon Serkin. André Tubeuf
Actes Sud, 2019, 224 pages ****
André Tubeuf, an admirer as well as a friend of Rudolph Serkin, pays homage to the great pianist in a book that guides us through memories, recordings, concerts and shared meals.
The book is divided into three movements that follow each another naturally. The first recounts the beginnings of the pianist’s career, including his collaboration with Adolph Busch and the momentous day when he embarked on the Goldberg Variations. The second, which could be marked appassionata, deals with Beethoven, Schubert, Mozart, Schumann, Mendelssohn and Brahms. We discover the transcendent sincerity of the artist’s relationship with the music. The author has a taste for inflammatory images: “With Serkin, Beethoven burns.”
In a third movement, we witness a withdrawal worthy of Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle. We become acquainted with the Serkin of the last years, the friend and sage who never lacked sincerity or frankness. The author resurfaces like a character in the story, which is dotted with luminous anecdotes.
This portrait gives us in words what Serkin has given all his life in music: a universe of great depth, a human drama, with the simplicity of a master. Serkin celebrated Mozart in Salzburg in 1925 and took Schubert out of instrumental torpor. With Busch and others, he created Marlboro, a parallel universe in his new home in Vermont, and helped bring about the Glyndebourne Festival, a musical refuge, back to a time when Central Europe was not an option.
This book is deeply human, like the friendship of the two men. It transmits the memory of a great musical master of the 20th century and gives us access to a special understanding of composers of the German tradition.