September 27, 2017

Zuzana Růžiková has died today at the age of 90

The pioneering harpsichordist leaves as legacy the first-ever complete recording of Bach keyboard works.

It is with great sadness that we learn of the passing of Czech harpsichordist Zuzana Růzičková. Her family confirmed in an official statement that she died peacefully in her sleep today 27 September, having celebrated her 90th birthday in January this year.

Born in 1927, Zuzana Růzičková was a child prodigy who developed her passion for the harpsichord at an early age. As a teenager she suffered unimaginable atrocities at the hands of the Nazis: of her journey from Theresienstadt, where her father was killed, to Auschwitz-Birkenau and on to Bergen-Belsen in February 1945, she has said, simply and devastatingly: “If ever there was Hell, this was the lowest part of Hell.”

Having survived the Holocaust, Růzičková returned to Czechoslovakia, where her extraordinary faith in the power of music, and above all the music of Bach, enabled her to overcome the persecution inflicted by the Communist regime, with which she refused to cooperate, before finally playing an active role in its demise during the Velvet Revolution.

She was the first artist to record the complete keyboard works of Bach, between 1965 and 1975. For the reissue of these recordings in a 20-album edition marking her 90th birthday, Warner Classics worked closely with her protégé Mahan Esfahani, in whom her legacy lives on and who offers this tribute today:

“The loss of this great musician today also means the loss of a huge source of inspiration and meaning to musicians and non-musicians alike. This is an irreplaceable giant. I will cherish every hour I spent with Zuzana as the most important of my life, and as hours which changed the course of everything for me.”

On Friday 29 September, The Golden Prague Festival is set to screen the premiere of a documentary about her struggles, entitled Zuzana: Music is Life.

With respectful homage to the memory of her late husband, composer Viktor Kalabis (1923-2006), we share in the sadness of those who knew her, loved her, and admired her.

Zuzana Ruzikova conference