Europe

Zuzana Ruzickova: Harpsichordist and Holocaust survivor dies at 90

Zuzana Ruzickova Image copyright Alamy
Image caption The Czech musician became internationally famous for her recordings of Bach

One of the world's leading harpsichordists, Zuzana Ruzickova, who survived three Nazi concentration camps including Auschwitz, has died aged 90.

Mrs Ruzickova passed away in a Prague hospital on Wednesday afternoon.

Despite living in totalitarian communist Czechoslovakia, she had a breakthrough in 1956 when she won a major international music composition.

Becoming an acclaimed global musician, she was best known for her interpretations of Bach.

Born to a Jewish family in then-Czechoslovakia in 1927, Mrs Ruzickova told the BBC in December that her love of music helped her survive the war.

"I was not a strong child, but I was in love with music from the beginning," she said.

She had to stop studying music after the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia in 1939.

Mrs Ruzickova's family were then deported to the Theresienstadt (Terezin) labour camp in 1942. Her grandparents and her father later died in the camp, along with tens of thousands of other Jewish inmates.

The teenager was then transported to Auschwitz, and later forced to carry out slave labour in Hamburg before being moved to Bergen-Belsen. After the war she returned to her native Czechoslovakia with her gravely ill mother.

Her hands were badly damaged during her three-year ordeal. But she told the BBC that she practised the piano for 12 hours a day to make up for lost time.

Despite being under repressive surveillance upon her return, she was allowed by the government to perform at competitions and concerts around the world because she became a lucrative source of foreign currency for the state.

Between 1965 and 1975 she became the first person to record Bach's complete works for keyboard.

Image copyright Unknown

Mrs Ruzickova had to stop performing in public in 2006 at the age of 79. Her husband, composer Viktor Kalabis, died the same year.

In her final years was unable to play at all because of nerve damage from cancer and chemotherapy treatment.

A documentary about her life was released earlier this year.

Related Topics

More on this story