Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)Toccata in e minor
Clara Haskil (1895-1960), piano
Recorded in 1953.
Haskil was born into a Sephardic Jewish family in Bucharest, Romania and studied in Vienna under Richard Robert (whose memorable pupils also included Rudolf Serkin and George Szell) and briefly with Ferruccio Busoni. She moved to Paris at the age 10, where she started studying with Gabriel Faure's pupil Joseph Morpain, whom she always credited as one of her biggest influences. She then entered the Paris Conservatoire at the age of ten, officially to study with Alfred Cortot although most of her instruction came from Lazare Lévy and Mme Giraud-Letarse, and graduated at age 15 with a Premier Prix. She also graduated with a Premier Prix in violin. Upon graduating, Haskil began to tour Europe, though her career was cut short by one of the numerous physical ailments she suffered throughout her life. In 1913 she was fitted with a plaster cast in an attempt to halt the progression of scoliosis. Frequent illnesses, combined with extreme stage fright that appeared in 1920, kept her from critical or financial success. Most of her life was spent in abject poverty. It was not until after World War II, during a series of concerts in the Netherlands in 1949, that she began to win the acclaim she deserved.
As a pianist, her playing was marked by a purity of tone and phrasing that may have come from her skill as a violinist. Transparency and sensitive inspiration were other hallmarks of her style.
Haskil died from injuries received through a fall in a Brussels train station. She was to play a concert with Arthur Grumiaux the following day.