Firkušny′, Rudolf, eminent Czech-born American pianist and pedagogue; b. Napajedla, Feb. 11, 1912; d. Staatsburg, N.Y., July 19, 1994. He studied composition privately with Janacek in 1919 and piano with Ruzena Kurzova at the Brno Cons. (1920–27), and also attended the Univ. of Brno. His further instructors were Vilem Kurz and Rudolf Karel (theory) at the Prague Cons., Suk (composition; 1929–30), and Artur Schnabel in N.Y. (1932). He made his debut as a child pianist in Prague on June 14, 1920, playing a Mozart piano concerto. He first performed in London in 1933, and on Jan. 13, 1938, he made his U.S. debut in N.Y., where he settled in 1940 and became a naturalized citizen. In 1943–44 he made a tour of Latin America and in 1946 participated in the Prague Festival; in subsequent years he also toured Europe, Israel, and Australia. After an absence of 44 years, he again played in Prague in 1990 as soloist in Martinu’s 2nd piano concerto. His interpretations of the standard piano literature were greatly esteemed. Firkusny was a champion of the music of Janacek; he also gave the first performances of Martin’s 3rd (Dallas, Nov. 20, 1949) and 4th (N.Y., Oct. 4, 1956) piano concertos. He likewise gave the first performances of piano concertos of Menotti (No. 1; Boston, Nov. 2, 1945) and Howard Hanson (Boston, Dec. 31, 1948). His technical equipment was of the highest caliber; his lyrical talent enhanced his virtuosity. He was also a composer; he wrote a piano concerto, a string quartet, and a number of attractive piano etudes and miniatures. In 1979 he began publication, with the violinist Rafael Druian, of a complete ed. of the Mozart violin sonatas. An excellent teacher, Firkusny gave master classes at the Juilliard School of Music in N.Y. and at the Aspen Music School in Colo.
J. Safafik, R. F. (Brno, 1994).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire