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Rosalyn Tureck 1914-2003
Rosalyn Tureck Rosalyn Tureck, one of the great interpreters of Bach's music, passed away at her home in the Bronx on July 17, reportedly just moments after the end of a tribute concert in her honor at the Mannes College of Music in Manhattan.

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Rosalyn Tureck
Rosalyn Tureck
Credit: © Bettmann/CORBIS
Rosalyn Tureck Plays Bach

Hear 30-second selections

audio icon "Goldberg Variations" BWV 988 - Aria

audio icon Italian Concerto, BWV 971 - Mvt. 3: Presto

audio icon English Suite No. 3 in G Minor, BWV 808 - "Gigue"

The High Priestess of Bach

The Chicago-born Tureck gave her solo recital debut at age 9 and went on to study with Anton Rubenstein and at Juilliard with Olga Samaroff. In 1936, she made her orchestral debut at Carnegie Hall with Eugene Ormandy conducting the Philadelpha Orchestra in Brahms' Piano Concerto in B-flat.

Tureck focused on the music of J.S. Bach for nearly seven decades, both in performance and in musical philosophy.

She also championed contemporary music, founding Composers of Today and the Society of Contemporary Music. She gave the world premieres of William Schumann's Piano Concerto and David Diamond's Piano Sonata No. 1. She even performed on the theremin at Carnegie Hall.

Yet she considered Bach's compositions to be the pinnacle of Western music. While practicing a Bach Fugue at age 17, Rosalyn Tureck had an epiphany concerning the structure and form of Bach, and created a new technique in order to realize that structure. For almost half a century, she would play only the music of the Baroque master.

At a time when period performance practice flourished, and many musicians thought Bach should be played on the harpsichord or the clavichord, Tureck insisted that the piano was an equally appropriate instrument, and helped to bring Bach's music back into the concert hall.

In a 1990 NPR interview, Tureck explained, "We can't expect everybody to be always enslaved to only the instruments of that period. And if you don't learn them, the music [of that period] is lost. That goes a little too far... I'm not playing the piano as a Chopin player when I'm playing Bach. I'm playing the piano out of Bach's own structures. And I always say I never tell Bach what to do, no matter what instrument I'm playing, whether on the harpsichord, or the piano, or the organ. Bach tells me what to do."

In Depth