When Ezra was born, Ella soon realised that her son was very musical and it was not long before the child, fascinated by the sound of his mother’s playing, started to pick out little melodies himself, not with the traditional one finger but with all his fingers. His mother began his piano lessons. When only three he so astounded the editor of one of the leading Los Angeles newspapers by his ability to read, that his name was splashed across the “daily” headlines as the “Three Year Old Philosopher”! He made such phenomenal progress that by the time he was five, he gave his first full length recital in Los Angeles to the acclaim of the critics. Three years later, “the eight year old child wonder” was a pupil of Olga Steeb. The review stated:
“One might say of little Ezra Rachlin that he is the reincarnation of a Mozart or Chopin, so mature is he in musical thought, stage presence and technique. His rendition of the Bach Prelude and Fugue would have done credit to a student three times his age and his Handel Sonata was nothing short of marvellous. Rightly guided, this young child has the making of a great genius in his small frame.”
Europe – Berlin
At that time, the centre for musical study was Berlin. Without hesitation, Ella and Herman Rachlin sold their Californian home and made arrangements to leave the USA, taking Ezra and his younger sister Abigail to Germany, so that Ezra could study with a great teacher of international repute, His farewell concert provoked the San Francisco Chronicle critic to write:
“A furore was created in Los Angeles music circles on the evening of June 18th 1925, when the talented little Ezra Rachlin, nine year old music wonder, gave a piano recital which aroused the deepest interest and created astonishment among the musicians and critics of the city. The program included selections from Bach, Haydn, Chopin, Moskowski and other, culminating in the major Beethoven Concerto played with the lad’s teacher. He sailed for Europe with his mother last week to continue his studies abroad.”
In Berlin, Ezra studied with Professor Moritz Mayer-Mahr. This highly respected musician was so impressed with young Ezra that in 1927 he gave permission for the little boy to make his Berlin debut at the age of eleven, in the same week as another famous child prodigy, Yehudi Menuhin. Ezra’s debut was a sensational success and he received numerous offers of concert tours and movie contracts. His sensible parents however only permitted a short tour of Germany. He performed at various salon concerts, including many at the house of the Abegg family, for whom Robert Schumann had written his Abegg Variations. He became bilingual, speaking German with a flawless accent as well as he spoke English.
The following year after another Berlin recital and the wise refusal of contracts by his parents, they returned to the United States.
Review in New York Times March 29, 1928
RACHLIN, BOY PIANIST GETS BERLIN OVATION
Cheering Audience and Critics hail San Francisco prodigy as “Little Paderewski”
BERLIN March 28. Ezra Rachlin, eleven year old piano prodigy of San Francisco, had a sceptical Berlin audience and the music critics at his feet after his first concert here tonight.
As his tiny hands brought forth melodies from masters with feeling, fervor and technique that might well be envied by masters who have toiled scores of years, lovers of harmony laid aside their biased opinions regarding youthful marvels, and gave the boy a heartfelt ovation such as is seldom accorded to old masters and even more rarely to a foreigner.
After his rendition of Beethoven’s Sonata in C major, Opus 2, in four movements, showing his real technique, there were cries of “Bravo, little Paderewski” and a grey haired man rushed to the stage to take the child in his arms.
Ezra seemed nervous only until he struck the first chord. Then he forgot the audience. When he left his stool, he ran from their sight but not from the memories of Berlin music lovers, who will long remember his interpretations of Bach, Chopin, Mendelssohn and Liszt.
Professor Meyer noted Berlin piano teacher, predicts a career for the youth such has never been surpassed and seldom equalled.”