Syracuse Journal, November 14
NEW YORK (INS) — The crowd was unusually restless. It was a warm, wet night; rubbers and umbrellas do not put music lovers into a receptive mood. And it was, besides, Blue Monday.

But the lure of a new child prodigy, a Yehudi Menuhin of the piano, had drawn a large crowd to the Town Hall last night for the debut of Ruth Slenczynska, 8 years old, of Sacramento, California. Gifted children, while they cannot compare with gifted adults, are amusing in the same way as the dog who stands on his hind legs.

With a "there-there, little girl" smile, the audience greeted Ruth as she stepped out on the state: rosy-cheeked, broad-shouldered, short of stature, and childishly conscious of her short white dress and white socks and shoes.

"Cute!" whispered a woman in the first row.

Ruth sat down at her piano and stretched her legs to touch the pedals. One hand smoothed her white skirt, shyly. The vast auditorium was very still.

Then, from the piano, issued a tremendous torrent. A Bach Fugue, Chopin’s “Winterwind” etude, Beethoven’s sonata "Pathetique" — poured out with masculine force, then, swiftly, changing in mood, with dramatic subtlety, and even — in Mendelssohn’s Rondo Capriccioso — with Fleine-like charm.

The music filled the air of the hall, beat against the walls, permeated the brains and hearts of listeners. Every head tilted forward, every pair of eyes was galvanized on the straining little figure at the keyboard of that baby grand. It was as if all but she had difficulty in breathing.

When it was over, an ovation such as has not been heard since the days of Enrico Caruso at the Metropolitan fairly lifted the roof. Critics who had come to patronize, reluctantly rose to their feet and made their way out, dazed, to write columns of amazed praise.

This was no talented youngster — this was something different: genius, which knows no age, sex or race.

Ruth met the storm of applause with a sweet little smile. She bowed, kissed her hand, even — when she got behind the wings — rubbed her eyes a little, like a tired little girl.

Those who heard the incredible volumes of sound set in motion by the little girl had the half-sanctified feeling of listening in on unexplored and unexplained mysteries.

While her name may not be a household word, Ruth Slenczynska has had a long and amazing career. She was born in Sacramento, California. Her father was a violinist who, according to her Wikipedia biography, started his daughter’s piano lessons when she was three years old. A year later she began studying piano in Europe. Among her instructors: Sergei Rachmaninoff.

She performed in concert in Berlin when she was six, and made her debut in Paris with a full orchestra in 1932. Then came the New York City concert at Town Hall in 1933. As a teenager, her life — and her career — took a turn. Her father, she would say later, had beaten her for keyboard mistakes — and even for bad reviews.

So at 15 she stopped performing, and at 19 she married George Born, a fellow student at the University of California in Berkeley.

They were divorced in 1954 and she resumed her concert career, but in 1964 became a full-time artist-in-residence at Southern Illinois University where she met her second husband, James Kerr, a political science professor. They remained together until he died in 2000.

Along the way she wrote an autobiography, “Forbidden Childhood” (1957) and “Music at Your Fingertips,” a book on piano technique. She also continued to do concerts and make recordings.

In a 2007 interview with David Patrick Stearns of the Philadelphia Inquirer, she said that, at the age of 82, her performing days were over, but admitted that wasn’t completely true because even as she spoke there were at least two concerts on her schedule, one in Warsaw and one in Japan, where she developed a large following in 2003. I also found a story about a recital in 2012 in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Not surprisingly, anyone who wishes can watch her perform, thanks to YouTube. One of the clips has her playing Chopin's Etude Op. 25, No. 11. It was taped at a performance in San Francisco in December, 2010 — three years after she said she was through with that sort of thing.

As of February 2024, she was 99 years old, living in Pennsylvania.