I am looking forward to see and be with Abram on January 12th, but I shall not be able to leave Philadelphia before noon, so I will miss Abrams [sic] lunch. I am disappointed, but I can’t help it because it is only two days before I leave for a 4 week tour.
I hope and trust that both of you are well, Irene joins me in sending you affectionate greetings…”
Born to a Russian-Jewish family in Bohemia, Serkin was recognized as a prodigy and performed throughout Europe with violinist Adolf Busch’s quartet. World War II forced Serkin to seek a permanent home in the United States where he became a teacher at and ultimately director of Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music. Over the course of 40 years he made notable recordings of Beethoven, Mozart, Schumann, Brahms, and Strauss, including several with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Serkin’s “profundity makes him a paragon among pianists of the mid-20th century,” (The New Grove Dictionary).
Our warm letter was written the year Serkin was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, during his long tenure at Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music. In January 1964, he and the New York Philharmonic under the baton of Leonard Bernstein recorded Beethoven’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 3 in C minor, op. 37.
Trained at Julliard and Curtis during the 1920s, Chasins made his professional debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Ossip Gabrilowitsch. He also served on the faculty of Curtis until 1935, leaving the esteemed music school just a few years before Serkin began teaching. In addition to composing more than 100 pieces of music such as Three Chinese Pieces and 24 Preludes for Piano, Chasins was music director of New York’s WQXR from 1946 to 1965 and also hosted a radio show entitled “Piano Pointers.” He also authored a number of books, including Speaking of Pianists, which included a chapter on Serkin; The Van Cliburn Legend; The Appreciation of Music; and Music at the Crossroads.
Chasins’ students included Constance Keene whom he married in 1949 and with whom he frequently performed. Keene was the 1943 winner of the Naumburg Piano Competition and, three years later, stood in for Vladimir Horowitz, who became a close personal friend. She is remembered for his 1964 recording of Rachmaninoff’s Preludes as well as for her influence as a mentor and teacher to many American pianists.
Serkin has typed his name and the date at the top of the page. Folded with one small hole not affecting any text. In fine condition.