Czech harpsichordist, Holocaust survivor Ruzickova dies at 90

Zuzana Ruzickova was the first soloist to record Johann Sebastian Bach's complete works for keyboard instruments. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/ZUZANA RUZICKOVA FANS

PRAGUE (AFP) - Czech harpsichordist Zuzana Ruzickova, a Holocaust survivor who became the first soloist to record Johann Sebastian Bach's complete works for keyboard instruments, died on Wednesday aged 90, Czech media reports said.

Ruzickova, who recorded Bach's complete work on 35 records from 1965 to 1975, died in a Prague hospital after a short illness.

Born on Jan 14, 1927, Ruzickova was expelled from grammar school when World War II started because she was a Jew.

In 1942, she was deported along with her family to a prison in the Czech town of Theresienstadt. Her father died there.

She was then sent to the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau, and later to the Bergen-Belsen camp.

After the war, she studied the harpsichord in Prague and Paris before winning a competition in Munich in 1956 that kicked off her career.

But she nonetheless faced an uphill battle as a performer and teacher in her home country, where the Communist regime had condemned the harpsichord as a feudal and religious instrument.

At concerts, she used to play the same tunes first on the piano and only then on the harpsichord.

It was only in the 1980s that she persuaded Prague's Academy of Performing Arts to accept the harpsichord as a full-fledged instrument.

"She was a woman with incredibly tough experiences and traumas suffered during the Holocaust. Fortunately, she survived and she was able to get over it," music journalist Petr Veber told the Czech news agency CTK.

A Czech Philharmonic soloist from 1979 to 1990, Ruzickova was bestowed with the Order of Arts and Letters, one of France's top cultural honours, in 2003.

She was married to the Czech composer Viktor Kalabis, who died aged 83 in 2006.

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