About Rosalyn Tureck

Rosalyn Tureck poses at the piano

Rosalyn Tureck (b. Chicago, December 14, 1913, d. New York City, July 17, 2003) was one of the greatest musical personalities of the 20th century.

Her brilliant, dedicated performances of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach were informed by the depth of her insight. Although she performed Bach on a wide variety of keyboard instruments (clavichord, harpsichord, organ, and even the Moog Synthesizer), her trail-blazing performances of Bach on the piano were an inspiring influence on generations of pianists who followed, such as the young Glenn Gould, who told of attending a Tureck recital in Toronto, and later said that she was the only pianist whom he admired.

Keyboard artist, teacher, conductor, scholar, author, and lecturer, Dr. Tureck founded the International Bach Society in New York City in 1966 and the Tureck Bach Institute in 1981 to promote research and performance of Bach’s music. In Oxford, England in 1993, she founded the Tureck Bach Research Foundation, from which she resigned in 2000. Upon her return to New York in 2001 she reconstituted the Tureck Bach Institute as the Tureck Bach Research Institute. Its purposes include making grants and awards for research and performance of the music of J. S. Bach, and promoting the publication of Dr. Tureck’s scholarly writings. She also supported the establishment of the biennial Tureck International Bach Competition for Young Pianists, directed by her former piano student, Golda Vainberg Tatz. Dr. Tureck’s notable students included many who were not keyboard players, including American guitarist Sharon Isbin and Russian-born violinist and conductor, Rimma Sushanskaya, who leads an annual music festival she established in her home city of Stratford-upon-Avon, UK.

Dr. Tureck taught at the Juilliard School of Music, Mannes School of Music, Columbia University, and the University of Maryland. In 1970 she was made a life fellow of St. Hilda’s College, Oxford, and in 1973 became a visiting fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford. She gave recitals, master classes, and lectures worldwide.

Although best known for her Bach performances, Rosalyn Tureck performed a wide spectrum of the music of her own time, including works by Aaron Copland, Luigi Dallapiccola, David Diamond, Arnold Schoenberg, and William Schuman, many of which were written for her. A student of Jan Chiapusso and Sophia Brilliant-Liven in Chicago and Olga Samaroff at the Juilliard School, she made her professional orchestra debut playing Brahms’s Second Piano Concerto with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy and toured with the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra conducted by Dimitri Mitropoulos in performances of Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto. She was the first woman to conduct a subscription concert of the New York Philharmonic and she also established The Tureck Bach Players in London (1957), and produced a Bach Tri-Centennial series of six concerts in Carnegie Hall in 1985.

Honors included Honorary Mus. D. from Oxford University (1977) and the Commander’s Cross of the Federal Republic of Germany (2002). Besides the Bach Institutes mentioned above, she founded Composers of Today in New York City 1949–53, and the Institute for Bach Studies in New York.

Rosalyn Tureck was actively performing, teaching and writing until shortly before her death. In her last months she completed book-length essays and analyses on The Goldberg Variations and The Performance of Bach, the latter being a revised and expanded version of her three-volume essay Introduction to the Performance of Bach (Oxford 1960). She also wrote an autobiography detailing her extraordinary career, Rosalyn Tureck: A Life with Bach, which was published posthumously (Pendragon Press 2019).

The artistry of Rosalyn Tureck lives through her many recordings published by VAI, DGG, EMI, BBC, and Sony; and videos of live concerts, published by VAI, as well as her Institute and website.

Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit. Award by the President of Federal Republic of Germany, April 18, 2002, Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit, Federal Republic of Germany, 1979, Medal of Honor, Universidad Nacional Menendez Pelayo, Palacio de la Magdalena, Santander, Spain, August 8, 2001, Philips Classics Great Pianists of the Twentieth Century, 1999, 2000. National Endowment for the Humanities grantee. Phi Beta Award, 1946, 1st Town Hall Endowment Award, 1937; First prize Schubert Memorial Contest. 1935, First Prize National Federation of Music Clubs Competition, 1935; 1st prize Greater Chicago Piano Playing Tournament, 1928.

Honorary Member: Fellow, Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Sebastian Bach de Belgique, Royal Philharmonic Society London.

Member: American Musicological Society; Royal Musical Association London, Society of Musicians (London); Musician of the Year 1987, Music Teachers Association.

Honorary Mus. D.: Oxford University, England, 1977 (fourth American woman so honored), Medal of Honor, Universidad Nacional Menendez Pelayo Santander, Spain, 2001; Music and Arts Institute, San Francisco, 1987, Roosevelt University, Chicago, IL, 1968, Wilson College, 1968, Colby College, 1964.

Faculty member: Philadelphia Conservatory of Music, 1935–42; Mannes School of Music, 1940–44; Juilliard School of Music, 1943–55; Columbia University, 1953–55; University of California, San Diego, 1966–72

Visiting Professor: Washington University, 1963–64

Life Fellow: St. Hilda’s College, Oxford University, 1975

Visiting Fellow: Wolfson College, Oxford University, 1978; University of Maryland, 1981–85; Yale University, 1991–93

Regents Lecturer: University of California, 1995

Lecturer: Boston University, 1993–94; Smithsonian institution, 1994; University of California, Santa Barbara, 1995; Hebrew University, Israel; Royal Institution of Great Britain, London, 1993–94; University of Southhampton, Oxford University, 1993, 10th international Congress of Logic; Methodology and Philosophy of Science, Florence, Italy, 1995; various educational institutions U.S, England, Spain, Denmark, Netherlands, Canada, Israel, Brazil, Argentina, and Chile.

Annual Master Classes: Oxford University, 1955–; Institute for Advanced Musical Studies, Oxford, 1997–

An Introduction to the Performance of Bach, A progressive anthology of keyboard music, edited, with introductory essays, Oxford University Press, 1959 (Europe), 1960 (USA), 1966 (translations: Japanese, Spanish), 2002 (translations: Chinese) 

Authenticity, Boston University Press, 1994

Cells, Functions, Relationships in Musical Structure and Performance, Proceedings of the Royal institution of Great Britain, August 1996, Oxford Science Press, 1996, Cells, Functions, Relationships in Musical Structure and Performance (revised and enlarged) interaction. Vol. 1, 1997

J. S. Bach and Number — Symmetries and Other Relationships

Musical Authenticity: Is it a Legitimate Offspring of Janus?, Interaction, Vol. 2. 1998

Creator and editor of journal Interaction: Proceedings of the Symposia of the Tureck Bach Research Foundation, Oxford, U.K. Volume I, April, 1997, Volume 2, December 1998; Tureck Bach Urtext Series: Italian Concerto, 1983, 2nd. ed, 1991, Lute Suite in E Minor, 1984, Lute Suite in C Minor, 1985, Schirmer Music, Inc Paganini-Tureck: Moto Perpetuo, A. Scarlatti; Air and Gavotte, Carl Fischer Music, Bach; Sarabande in C minor 1960, Oxford University Press.

Composers of Today, 1949–53, Society for Contemporary Music, Founder, Dir. Tureck Bach Players, London, 1957, New York, 1981; Bach Festivals — London, Glyndebourne, Wales, Ireland, Spain 1959–, Carnegie Hall, New York, 1975–; International Bach Society, Institute for Bach Studies, New York, 1968.

Tureck Bach Institute. Inc., Musicological Research and Performance on Period and Contemporary Instruments 1981 (Annual Symposia 1968–), Tureck Bach Research Foundation, Musicology, Performance, the Sciences, Oxford, 1994 (First Annual Symposium — Structure; Principles, and Applications in the Sciences and Music, 15–17 Dec. 1995, Second Annual Symposium — Structure, the Notion of Authenticity, 19–21 April 1997; Third Annual Symposium — The Concept of Concept, 9–10 May 1998); Institute of Advanced Musical Studies, Oxford, 1997 Spain 1999–; Tureck Bach Research Institute, Inc., New York, 2001–.

Who’s Whos: Who’s Who: Who’s Who in America, International Who’s Who in Music, World Who’s Who of Women, Wire’s Who in World Jewry, Who’s Who in Society, Who’s Who in Entertainment, international Who’s Who of Professional and Business Women, American Publishing Wire’s Who, American Keyboard Artists, International Authors and Writers, Writer’s Directory, Dictionaries: New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Baker’s Biographical Dictionary.

Recordings: Deutsche Grammophon, Philips, HMV (Odeon), Columbia Masterworks, Sony, Allegro, Everest, Video Artists International.

Television: Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I (Series), Granada Television, England, 1961, Well-Tempered Clavier, Books 1 & 2 (Series), BBC, Firing Line. PBS Television, US, 1970, 1985, 1987, 1989, 1990. Camera Three. Today Show, CBS Television, U.S., Rome Telecom, 1996, 1997. Numerous appearances since 1960 in U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, France, Denmark, Netherlands, Russia.

Films: Rosalyn Tureck Plays Bach, “Fantasy and Fugue” CBS, 1972; Rosalyn Tureck Plays on Harpsichord and Organ, 1977, ‘Joy of Bach’ Rosalyn Tureck performs on piano, harpsichord and clavichord at Temple Church, London, Bach on the Frontier of the future, performances on the piano, harpsichord, clavichord, moog. Camera Three (CBS), 1975: Tureck in Ephesus Turkey. CBS, 1985.

Videos: Live recitals: Mixed program, Teatro Colon, Buenos Aires, Video Artists International, 1992. Live recitals St. Petersburg, Russia, All Bach: Goldberg Variations, 1997; St. Petersburg, Russia. Tureck on Television, Harpsichord and Piano, VAI, February, 1999.

Debuts: U.S. Chicago (age 9), solo recital, 1926; Ravinia Park, soloist, Chicago, 1926; Chicago, 2 all-Bach recitals, 1930, Carnegie Hall, Theremin recital. New York, 1932: Official Carnegie Hall debut with Philadelphia Orchestra, 1936; 6 all-Bach Recitals, Town Hall, New York, 1937 (continued annually).
Europe: Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm, London (BBC), 1949, London , 1953
Asia: Hong Kong, Singapore, India, 1966
South America: 1986

Concert Tours: Extensive annual international tours since 1947, recitals, orchestral performances as soloist and conductor, master classes, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, England, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Russia, Germany, Far East: Hong Kong, Singapore, India, Israel, Turkey, U.S., Denmark, France, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, South Africa.

Conductor/Soloist: Philharmonia Orchestra, London, 1959–, New York Philharmonic, 1960, Tureck Bach Players, London 1960–72, San Antonio Symphony, 1962; Scottish National Orchestra, Edinburgh, Glasgow, 1963, Israel Philharmonic, Tel Aviv, Haifa, 1963; Kol Israel Orchestra, Jerusalem, 1963, Tureck Bach Players, Glyndebourne, 1967–; Tureck Bach Players, New York (Carnegie Hall), 1967–, Kansas City Philharmonic, 1968, National Symphony Orchestra, Washington, D.C., Annapolis, New York, 1970, Madrid Festival Symphony Orchestra, 1970, Tureck Bach Players, Israel Festival, 1967, 1969, 1970–86; St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, 1981; Rome Telecom Orchestra, 1996–97.

Annual Bach Series: New York, 1937–54, 1959–, London, 1953–; Copenhagen, 1956–; Pasadena, California Institute of Technology, 1938–, Montreal, 1945–53, London (Tureck Bach Players) 1960–72, New York (Carnegie Hall) 1970–, other capitol cities, U.S.A. and Europe.

Festivals: All-Bach Programs, solo recitals and as conductor of Tureck Bach Players (see above); J. S. Bach 300th Anniversary Series: Six concerts in Carnegie Hall, 1985, with orchestra, chorus, and vocal soloists. Solo recitals, concertos conducted from the keyboard by Dr. Tureck, and cantatas.